The Birth of Venus, 1486 by Sandro Botticelli

Botticelli's famous painting of The Birth of Venus was executed in the middle of the 1480s. At the start of the 16th century, the painting hung together with Primavera in the country villa of the Medici in Castello.

Venus is standing in the centre of the picture on a seashell floating in the water: according to classical mythology, she sprang from the foaming waters of the sea. This froth had formed around the genitals of Uranus, God of the Sky, his son Cronus having cut them off and thrown them into the sea as an act of revenge for the cruelty perpetrated by his father. The figure of Venus appears in Botticelli's painting almost like a classical statue. The hard modelling of the white shimmering flesh colour is reminiscent of marble, while her posture recalls the classical sculpture of Venus Pudica, modest Venus. Botticelli has gone over the contours of the figure with a black line, causing them to stand out sharply from the surface of the picture and emphasizing their curious clarity and coldness. Roses are floating down from the sky: according to classical legend, their origin coincided with the birth of Venus.

Botticelli's art was never fully committed to naturalism; in comparison to his contemporary Caravaggio, Botticelli seldom gave weight and volume to his figures and rarely used a deep perspectival space. In The Birth of Venus, Venus' body is anatomically improbable, with elongated neck and torso. Her pose is impossible: although she stands in a classical contrapposto stance, her weight is shifted too far over the left leg for the pose to be held. Moreover, her positioning on the edge of the scallop shell (which cannot be identified as real), would certainly cause it to tip over. The bodies and poses of the winds to the left are even harder to figure out. The background is summary, and the figures cast no shadows. It is clear that this is a fantasy image.