The virtue of Venus

A land­mark ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores Brand Bot­ti­celli

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

Ev­ery­one knows her. She has been im­i­tated by artists from In­gres, De­gas, Gus­tave Moreau and Raoul Dufy to Andy Warhol, Or­lan, David LaChapelle and Robert Rauschen­berg. She has ap­peared on ob­jects as hum­ble as a tea towel and as fancy as a Dolce & Gab­bana dress; she has been ref­er­enced in films, in­clud­ing Dr No. She is so recog­nis­able that she has be­come a short­hand for fem­i­nine beauty. Bot­ti­celli’s Venus is a leg­end.

Which is odd, when you con­sider that af­ter his death in 1510, in rel­a­tive penury at the age of 64, Bot­ti­celli slipped un­der the waves of ob­scu­rity as smoothly as his golden-haired god­dess sails across the sea on her oys­ter shell. For a long time he was chiefly re­mem­bered for his il­lus­tra­tions to Dante’s Divine Com­edy (some of which are on dis­play at the Cour­tauld In­sti­tute in Lon­don). It wasn’t un­til the late 18th and early 19th cen­turies that he re-emerged — first with the re-eval­u­a­tion of his later, re­li­gious pic­tures, and then with the cham­pi­oning by the pre-Raphaelites of his ear­lier mytho­log­i­cal paint­ings, such as Venus — but he has made up for lost time.

Now the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum in Lon­don is

The Uf­fizi in Florence, main; The Birth of Venus, above left; Bot­ti­celli Reimag­ined, at the V&A, right

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