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The Birth of Venus (Bouguereau)
The Birth of Venus (French: La Naissance de Vénus) is one of the most famous paintings by 19th-century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It depicts not the actual birth of Venus from the sea, but her transportation in a shell as a fully mature woman from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus. She is considered the epitome of the Classical Greek and Roman ideal of the female form and beauty, on par with Venus de Milo.
|The Birth of Venus|
|French: La Naissance de Vénus|
|Year||1879 ( 1879 )|
|Medium||oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||300 cm × 218 cm (120 in × 86 in)|
For Bouguereau, it is considered a tour de force. The canvas stands at just over 300 centimetres (9 feet 10 inches) high, and 218 cm (7 ft 2 in) wide. The subject matter, as well as the composition, resembles a previous rendition of this subject, Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, as well as Raphael's The Triumph of Galatea.
At the center of the painting, Venus stands nude on a scallop shell  being pulled by a dolphin, one of her symbols. Fifteen putti, including Cupid and his lover Psyche, and several nymphs and centaurs have gathered to witness Venus' arrival. Most of the figures are gazing at her, and two of the centaurs are blowing into conch and Triton shells, signaling her arrival.
Venus is considered to be the embodiment of feminine beauty and form, and these traits are shown in the painting.  Her head is tilted to one side, and her facial expression reflects that she is calm and comfortable with her nudity. She raises her arms,  arranging her thigh-length, brown hair, swaying elegantly in an "S" curve contrapposto, emphasizing the curves of her body. 
Venus' figure was enlarged from a nymph from Bouguereau's The Nymphaeum, completed in 1878, a year earlier.  The nymph is slightly thinner, and her breasts are fuller and more rounded. Venus' contrapposto is more intense, and her hair is also longer and lighter than the nymph's, but she arranges it almost identically.
To the uppеr-left of the painting, there is a shadow in the clouds. It appears to be the silhouette of the artist, with a head, shoulder, arm, and a raised fist that would seem to hold a paintbrush. 
Formative years Edit
William-Adolphe Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle, France, on 30 November 1825, into a family of wine and olive oil merchants.  The son of Théodore Bouguereau (born 1800) and Marie Bonnin (1804), known as Adeline, William was brought up a Catholic. He had an elder brother, Alfred, and a younger sister, Marie (known as Hanna), who died when she was seven. The family moved to Saint-Martin-de-Ré in 1832. Another sibling was born in 1834, Kitty. At the age of 12, Bouguereau went to Mortagne to stay with his uncle Eugène, a priest and developed a love of nature, religion and literature. In 1839, he was sent to study for the priesthood at a Catholic college in Pons. Here he was taught to draw and paint by Louis Sage, who had studied under Ingres. Bouguereau reluctantly left his studies to return to his family, now residing in Bordeaux. There he met a local artist, Charles Marionneau, and commenced at the Municipal School of Drawing and Painting in November 1841. Bouguereau also worked as a shop assistant, hand-colouring lithographs and making small paintings that were reproduced using chromolithography. He was soon the best pupil in his class, and decided to become an artist in Paris. To fund the move, he sold portraits – 33 oils in three months. All were unsigned and only one has been traced. He arrived in Paris aged 20 in March 1846. 
Bouguereau became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts.  To supplement his formal training in drawing, he attended anatomical dissections and studied historical costumes and archeology. He was admitted to the studio of François-Édouard Picot, where he studied painting in the academic style. Dante and Virgil in Hell (1850) was an early example of his neo-classical works. Academic painting placed the highest status on historical and mythological subjects, and Bouguereau determined to win the Prix de Rome, which would gain him a three-year residence at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy, where in addition to formal lessons he could study first-hand the Renaissance artists and their masterpieces, as well as Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities. 
Villa Medici, Rome 1851–1854 Edit
The young artist entered the Prix de Rome contest in April 1848. Soon after work began there were riots in Paris, and Bouguereau enrolled in the National Guard. After an unsuccessful attempt to win the prize, he entered again in 1849. Following 106 days of competition, he again failed to win. His third attempt commenced unsuccessfully in April 1850 with Dante and Virgil but five months later, he heard he had won a joint first prize for Shepherds Find Zenobia on the Banks of the Araxes. 
Along with other category winners, he set off for Rome in December and finally arrived at the Villa Medici in January 1851. Bouguereau explored the city, making sketches and watercolours as he went. He also studied classical literature, which influenced his subject choice for the rest of his career.  He walked to Naples and on to Capri, Amalfi and Pompeii. Still based in Rome and working hard on course work, there were more explorations of Italy in 1852. Although he had a strong admiration for all traditional art, he particularly revered Greek sculpture, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens and Delacroix. In April 1854, he left Rome and returned to La Rochelle. 
Height of career Edit
Bouguereau, painting within the traditional academic style, exhibited at the annual exhibitions of the Paris Salon for his entire working life. An early reviewer stated, "M. Bouguereau has a natural instinct and knowledge of contour. The eurythmie of the human body preoccupies him, and in recalling the happy results which, in this genre, the ancients and the artists of the sixteenth century arrived at, one can only congratulate M. Bouguereau in attempting to follow in their footsteps . Raphael was inspired by the ancients . and no one accused him of not being original." 
Raphael was a favourite of Bouguereau and he took this review as a high compliment. He had fulfilled one of the requirements of the Prix de Rome by completing an old-master copy of Raphael's The Triumph of Galatea. In many of his works, he followed the same classical approach to composition, form, and subject matter.  Bouguereau's graceful portraits of women were considered very charming, partly because he could beautify a sitter while also retaining her likeness.
Although Bouguereau spent most of his life in Paris, he returned to La Rochelle again and again throughout his professional life. He was revered in the town of his birth and undertook decorating commissions from local citizens. From the early 1870s, he and his family spent every summer in La Rochelle. In 1882, he decided that rather than rent he would purchase a house, as well as local farm buildings. By August of that year, the family's permanent summer base was on the rue Verdière. The artist commenced several paintings here and completed them in his Paris studio. 
Bouguereau flourished after his Villa Medici residence. In 1854–55 he decorated a pavilion at the grand house of a cousin in Angoulins, including four large paintings of figures depicting the seasons. He was happy to undertake other commissions to pay off the debts accrued in Italy and to help his penniless mother. He decorated a mansion with nine large paintings of allegorical figures. In 1856, the Ministry of State for Fine Arts commissioned him to paint Emperor Napoleon III Visiting the Victims of the Tarascon Flood. There were decorations for the chapel at Saint-Clotilde. He received the Legion of Honour on 12 July 1859. By this time, Bouguereau was turning away from history painting and lengthy commissions to work on more personal paintings, with realistic and rustic themes. 
By the late 1850s, he had made strong connections with art dealers, particularly Paul Durand-Ruel (later the champion of the Impressionists), who helped clients buy paintings from artists who exhibited at the Salons.  Thanks to Durand-Ruel, Bouguereau met Hugues Merle, who later often was compared to Bouguereau. The Salons annually drew over 300,000 people, providing valuable exposure to exhibited artists.  Bouguereau's fame extended to England by the 1860s.  Three paintings were shown at the 1863 Salon and Holy Family (Now at Chimei Museum) was sold to Napoleon III, who presented it to his wife the Empress Eugénie, who hung it in her Tuileries apartment. 
Bather (1864), a shocking nude, was submitted to an exhibition in Ghent, Belgium. It was a spectacular success and purchased by the museum at great expense. At this time, William took on decorative work at the Grand Théâtre, Bordeaux, which lasted four years. In 1875, with assistants, he began work on a La Rochelle chapel ceiling, producing six paintings on copper over the next six years. Once installed in the city in summer 1875 he began Pietà, one of his greatest religious paintings and shown at the 1876 Salon, in tribute to his son Georges. At the behest of King William III of the Netherlands, Bouguereau went to Het Loo Palace in May 1876. The king admired the artist and they spent intimate times together. In May 1878 the Paris Universal Exhibition opened to showcase French work. Bouguereau found and borrowed twelve of his paintings from their owners, including his new work Nymphaeum. 
Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects, both pagan and Christian, with a concentration on the naked female form. The idealized world of his paintings brought to life goddesses, nymphs, bathers, shepherdesses, and madonnas in a way that appealed to wealthy art patrons of the era.
Bouguereau employed traditional methods of working up a painting, including detailed pencil studies and oil sketches, and his careful method resulted in a pleasing and accurate rendering of the human form. His painting of skin, hands, and feet was particularly admired.  He also used some of the religious and erotic symbolism of the Old Masters, such as the "broken pitcher" which connoted lost innocence. 
Bouguereau received many commissions to decorate private houses and public buildings, and, early on, this added to his prestige and fame. As was typical of such commissions, he would sometimes paint in his own style, and at other times conform to an existing group style. He also made reductions of his public paintings for sale to patrons, of which The Annunciation (1888) is an example.  He was also a successful portrait painter and many of his paintings of wealthy patrons remain in private hands. 
Académie Julian Edit
From the 1860s, Bouguereau was closely associated with the Académie Julian where he gave lessons and advice to art students, male and female, from around the world. During several decades he taught drawing and painting to hundreds, if not thousands, of students. Many of them managed to establish artistic careers in their own countries, sometimes following his academic style, and in other cases, rebelling against it, like Henri Matisse. He married his most famous pupil, Elizabeth Jane Gardner, after the death of his first wife.
Bouguereau received many honors from the Academy: he became a Life Member in 1876 received the Grand Medal of Honour in 1885  was appointed Commander of the Legion of Honor in 1885 and was made Grand Officier of the Legion of Honour in 1905.  He began to teach drawing at the Académie Julian  in 1875, a co-ed art institution independent of the École des Beaux-Arts, with no entrance exams and nominal fees. 
Wives and children Edit
In 1856, William began living with one of his models, Nelly Monchablon, a 19-year-old from Lisle-en-Rigault. Living together out of wedlock, the pair kept their liaison a secret. Their first child, Henriette, was born in April 1857 Georges was born in January 1859. A third child, Jeanne, was born 25 December 1861. The couple married quietly (for many assumed they were already wed) on 24 May 1866. Eight days later, Jeanne died from tuberculosis. In mourning, the couple went to La Rochelle, and Bouguereau made a painting of her in 1868. A fourth child, Adolphe (known as Paul), was born in October 1868. Aged 15, Georges' health suffered, and his mother took him away from the bad air of Paris. However, he died on 19 June 1875. Nelly had a fifth child in 1876, Maurice, but her health was declining and the doctors suspected that she had contracted tuberculosis. She died on 3 April 1877, and baby Maurice died two months later. 
The artist planned to marry Elizabeth Jane Gardner, a pupil whom he had known for ten years, but his mother was opposed to the idea. Soon after Nelly's death, she made Bouguereau swear he would not remarry within her lifetime. After his mother's death, and after a nineteen-year engagement, he and Gardner married in Paris in June 1896.  His wife continued to work as his private secretary, and helped to organize the household staff. His son Paul contracted tuberculosis in early 1899 Paul, his stepmother, and Bouguereau went to Menton in the south. When the stay was prolonged, the artist found a room in which to paint. Paul died at his father's house in April 1900, aged 32 Bouguereau had outlived four of his five children, only Henriette outlived him. Elizabeth, who was with her husband to the end, died in Paris in January 1922. 
When Bouguereau arrived in Paris in March 1846, he resided at the Hotel Corneille at 5 rue Corneille. In 1855, after his stay in Rome, he lived at 27 rue de Fleurus, and the following year rented a fourth-floor studio at 3 rue Carnot, near his apartment. In 1866, the year of his marriage to Nelly, he bought a vast plot of land on the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, and an architect was commissioned to design a grand house with a top-floor studio. The family was installed in 1868, together with five servants and with his mother, Adeline, visiting daily. Bouguereau spent the rest of his life here and at La Rochelle. 
Later years and death Edit
Bouguereau was an assiduous painter, often completing twenty or more easel paintings in a single year. Even during the twilight years of his life, he would rise at dawn to work on his paintings six days a week and would continue painting until nightfall.  Throughout the course of his lifetime, he is known to have painted at least 822 paintings. Many of these paintings have been lost.  Near the end of his life he described his love of his art: "Each day I go to my studio full of joy in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come . if I cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable." 
In the spring of 1905, Bouguereau's house and studio in Paris were burgled. On 19 August 1905, aged 79, Bouguereau died in La Rochelle from heart disease. There was an outpouring of grief in the town of his birth. After a Mass at the cathedral, his body was placed on a train to Paris for a second ceremony. Bouguereau was laid to rest with Nelly and his children at the family vault at Montparnasse Cemetery. 
Soir, Evening or Evening Mood (1882)
Psyche et L'Amour (1889)
The Bather or Baigneuse (1879)
Les Deux Baigneuses (1884)
In his own time, Bouguereau was considered to be one of the greatest painters in the world by the academic art community, and simultaneously he was reviled by the avant-garde. He also gained wide fame in Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Romania and in the United States, and commanded high prices.  His works often sold within days of completion. Some were viewed by international collectors and bought before work had even finished. 
Bouguereau's career was nearly a direct ascent with hardly a setback.  To many, he epitomized taste and refinement, and a respect for tradition. To others, he was a competent technician stuck in the past. Degas and his associates used the term "Bouguereauté" in a derogatory manner to describe any artistic style reliant on "slick and artificial surfaces",  also known as a licked finish. In an 1872 letter, Degas wrote that he strove to emulate Bouguereau's ordered and productive working style, although with Degas' famous trenchant wit, and the aesthetic tendencies of the Impressionists, it is possible the statement was meant to be ironic.  Paul Gauguin loathed him, rating him a round zero in Racontars de Rapin and later describing in Avant et après (Intimate Journals) the single occasion when Bouguereau made him smile on coming across a couple of his paintings in an Arles' brothel, "where they belonged".  
Bouguereau's works were eagerly bought by American millionaires who considered him the most important French artist of that time.  For example, Nymphs and Satyr was purchased first by John Wolfe, then sold by his heiress Catharine Lorillard Wolfe to hotelier Edward Stokes, who displayed it in New York City's Hoffman House Hotel.  Two paintings by Bouguereau in the Nob Hill mansion of Leland Stanford were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.  Gold Rush tycoon James Ben Ali Haggin and his family, who normally eschewed the nude, made an exception for Bouguereau's Nymphaeum.
However, even during his lifetime, there was critical dissent in assessing his work the art historian Richard Muther wrote in 1894 that Bouguereau was a man "destitute of artistic feeling but possessing a cultured taste [who] reveals. in his feeble mawkishness, the fatal decline of the old schools of convention." In 1926, American art historian Frank Jewett Mather criticized the commercial intent of Bouguereau's work, writing that the artist "multiplied vague, pink effigies of nymphs, occasionally draped them, when they became saints and madonnas, painted on the great scale that dominates an exhibition, and has had his reward. I am convinced that the nude of Bouguereau was prearranged to meet the ideals of a New York stockbroker of the black walnut generation." Bouguereau confessed in 1891 that the direction of his mature work was largely a response to the marketplace: "What do you expect, you have to follow public taste, and the public only buys what it likes. That's why, with time, I changed my way of painting." 
Bouguereau fell into disrepute after 1920, due in part to changing tastes.  Comparing his work to that of his Realist and Impressionist contemporaries, Kenneth Clark faulted Bouguereau's painting for "lubricity", and characterized such Salon art as superficial, employing the "convention of smoothed-out form and waxen surface." 
The New York Cultural Center staged a show of Bouguereau's work in 1974—partly as a curiosity, although curator Robert Isaacson had his eye on the long-term rehabilitation of Bouguereau's legacy and reputation.  In 1984, the Borghi Gallery hosted a commercial show of 23 oil paintings and one drawing. In the same year a major exhibition was organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada. The exhibition opened at the Musée du Petit-Palais, in Paris, traveled to The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, and concluded in Montréal. More recently, resurgence in the artist's popularity has been promoted by American collector Fred Ross, who owns a number of paintings by Bouguereau and features him on his website at Art Renewal Center.  
In 2019, the Milwaukee Art Museum assembled more than 40 of Bouguereau's paintings for a major retrospective of his work, which according to the Wall Street Journal, asked the readers to "see Bouguereau through the eyes of an age when he was lionized, and Impressionism was dismissed as 'French freedom.' "  The exhibition later was scheduled to travel to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tenn., and then to the San Diego Museum of Art. 
Prices for Bouguereau's works have climbed steadily since 1975, with major paintings selling at high prices: $1,500,000 in 1998 for The Heart's Awakening, $2,600,000 in 1999 for The Motherland and Charity at auction in May 2000 for $3,500,000. Bouguereau's works are in many public collections.
Notre Dame des Anges ("Our Lady of the Angels") was last shown publicly in the United States at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. It was donated in 2002 to the Daughters of Mary Mother of Our Savior, an order of nuns affiliated with Clarence Kelly's Traditionalist Catholic Society of St. Pius V. In 2009, the nuns sold it for $450,000 to an art dealer, who was able to sell it for more than $2 million. Kelly was subsequently found guilty by a jury in Albany, New York, of defaming the dealer in remarks made in a television interview. 
Sources on his full name are contradictory: it is sometimes given as William-Adolphe Bouguereau (composed name), William Adolphe Bouguereau (usual and civil-only names according to the French tradition), while in other occasions it appears as Adolphe William Bouguereau (with Adolphe as the usual name). However, he used to sign his works simply as William Bouguereau (hinting "William" was his given name, whatever the order), or more precisely as "W.Bouguereau.date" (French alphabet) and later as "W-BOVGVEREAV-date" (Latin alphabet).
- 1848: Second Prix de Rome, for Saint Pierre après sa délivrance de prison, vient retrouver les fidèles chez Marie.
- 1850: Premier Prix de Rome, for Zenobie retrouvée par les bergers sur les bords de l'Araxe.
- 1859: Knight of the Legion of Honour
- 1876: Officer of the Legion of Honour 
- 1881: Knight in the Order of Leopold
- 1885: Commander of the Legion of Honour 
- 1885: Grand Medal of Honour 
- 1890: Member of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium
- 1905: Grand Officier of the Legion of Honour 
In The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers, he is mentioned in various tales as a teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts.
In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Sign of the Four (1890), the character Mr Sholto remarks, "there cannot be the least question about the Bouguereau. I am partial to the modern French school." 
Dante and Virgil in Hell (1850)
The source material for this painting is Canto XXX from the "Inferno" sequence of the medieval poet Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy (1308-20). In this section, the poet Dante and his guide Virgil descend to the eighth circle of hell, where they encounter the tormented souls of "falsifiers" (counterfeiters and fraudsters). Bouguereau was likely inspired by the following lines from the poem: "As I beheld two shadows pale and naked, / Who, biting, in the manner ran along/ That a boar does, when from the sty turned loose." In the foreground, the wrathful Capocchio - a friend from Dante's schooldays, who was burned at the stake as an alchemist - is attacked by Gianni Schicchi, another of Dante's contemporaries, who had impersonated a dead man in order to steal his inheritance. A demon hovers in the background, while other damned souls writhe around in the fiery landscape.
Bouguereau submitted this atypically macabre work to the Salon of 1850, at a time when he was just establishing himself as an Academic painter. The work garnered significant critical praise, including from the writer Théophile Gautier, who remarked on Bouguereau's attention to musculature and narrative drama. Through his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts, Bouguereau had encountered the works of the great Neoclassical painters, and had absorbed a contemporary fashion for dark subjects from medieval literature. At this early point in his career, he was also concerned with showing off his technical prowess, by capturing unusually strained nude poses.
Bouguereau would not return to Dante, soon discovering that - in his own words - "the horrible, the frenzied, the heroic does not pay", and that the public preferred Venuses and Cupids. Nevertheless, he retained the exquisite skill in figure painting which is clear from this work. Composed the same year as his breakthrough painting Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Arax (1850), which earned him the Grand Prix de Rome, this painting thus marks the point in Bouguereau's career when he established himself as a champion of the Academic style.
For this ambitious religious work, Bouguereau devised a large-scale interpretation of the classic Pietà theme, showing the Virgin Mary mourning the body of Christ. At the center of the composition, consumed by her black veil, Mary cradles her child, entreating the viewer to pity with her gaze. Golden aureoles, resembling the gold-leaf details on Renaissance icons and altar-work, surround the heads of the two central figures, while a group of mourning angels encircles the scene, echoing the central compositional shapes.
A year before completing the painting Bouguereau had suffered the traumatic loss of his teenage son George to a sudden illness. Contemporary correspondence reveals the artist's overwhelming grief at the death, that also seemed to have moved him to create a number of monumental religious works, this one being the most affecting. The golden urn in the foreground bears a faint Latin inscription dedicated to George, including his date of death. In stylistic terms, the art historian Gerald Ackerman has compared Bouguereau's religious works to "the masters of the high Renaissance[.] [Bouguereau] builds compositions out of the movement of strong, well rounded bodies, whose authoritative presence fills the canvases with energy." It is no coincidence that the position of Christ's head and shoulders echo that of Michelangelo's Vatican Pieta (1498-99) sculpture. Bouguereau also paid close attention to detail through his use of color: the rusty, drying blood on the white cloth in the foreground, the reddened eyes of the tearful Virgin, and the green tones of Christ's extremities in decay, all enhance the visual precision.
In 1870s France, religious painting was no longer the dominant genre it had been half a century previously, and the sharp, precise style of Neoclassicism was also under threat, from the advance of Impressionism it is worth noting that this painting was composed four years after Monet's Impression, Sunrise (1872). However, Bouguereau was no captive of avant-garde fashion, and his personal identification with the Pietà theme allowed him to create a work transcending the cloying sentimentality for which he is sometimes criticized.
The Birth of Venus (1879)
In Bouguereau's interpretation of a famous origin narrative from Roman mythology, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, emerges from sea-foam standing on a shell, traversing the water to reach land. A flock of nymphs, tritons, and putti surround her in admiration while, in a take on the classic contrapposto stance of Venus Anadyomene from antiquity, the goddess accentuates the curves of her body in alternate directions, while adjusting her hair. Cool pastel colors evoke the dewy atmosphere of the marine world.
For this composition, Bouguereau drew inspiration from Renaissance masterworks such as Raphael's The Triumph of Galatea (c. 1514), with its encircling halo of cherubs, and Sandro Botticelli's seductive Birth of Venus (1486), both of which Bouguereau had studied in Italy during his Prix de Rome scholarship. Unlike Raphael and Botticelli's nudes, however, Bouguereau's Venus is captured with a refined naturalism indicating the new artistic tastes of the 1870s, without thereby foregoing Neoclassical artifice. As such, the work rises to the challenge of the late-19th-century Salon painter as described by T.J. Clark: to negotiate the flesh of a modern woman in Naturalist style while clinging to the Academic ideal of "the body as a sign, formal and generalized, meant for a token of composure and fulfillment." In its technical perfection, Bouguereau's Venus appears realistic, yet she remains displaced from individual identity, safely confined to the role of an ideal.
This proved to be a successful (and profitable) combination, and Bouguereau received great acclaim for this painting at the 1879 Salon. The strongly erotic tincture also hints at some of Bouguereau's more pragmatic methods for ensuring a buying audience for his work: whereas Botticelli's Venus conceals her bosom enticingly, Bouguereau's invites the viewer to inspect every section of her, unashamed of her nakedness and sensuality.
Sandro had an older brother, who was allegedly called “barrel” because of his stocky build, and it is thought that this is how the young Sandro got the nickname Botticelli. The name stuck with him for the rest of his life and became synonymous with some of Florence’s greatest works of art. (See also: The Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's masterpiece.)
The details of the artist’s early life are few. Of Botticelli’s childhood, the 16th-century historian Giorgio Vasari wrote: “Although [Botticelli] found it easy to learn whatever he wished, nevertheless he was restless . [and, so,] weary with the vagaries of his son’s brain, in despair his father apprenticed him as a goldsmith.” This experience emerges in Botticelli’s paintings in the form of meticulous, intricate flourishes.
During Botticelli’s youth, Florence was the center of innovation in Italian art. The Florentine sculptor Donatello used his extensive knowledge of classical works to push his art to new heights. The Dominican Basilica of Santa Maria Novella housed the “Holy Trinity” fresco by Masaccio. Completed in 1427, it is believed to be the first work to fully apply the laws of linear perspective. (See also: Finding Donatello's 'Lost' Masterpiece.)
Mayn scholars believe that the Vespuccis, wealthy acquaintances of Botticelli’s family, secured him an apprenticeship with Fra Filippo Lippi, one of the greatest painters in the region. Lippi had a workshop in the nearby town of Prato, and the teenage Botticelli studied with him and painted his first works under Lippi’s tutelage.
10 Facts You Might not Know about the Masterpiece
1. Botticelli set a new precedent with his painting "Birth of Venus." He rendered the work on canvas. This was a departure from the plank paintings and frescoes the other masters of his day worked with. In fact, because canvas was a cheaper material, many contemporaries considered it inferior. Botticelli was the first artist in Tuscany to paint on canvas.
2. The Italian artist also set a new standard with the size of the painting. "Birth of Venus" measures a whopping six by nine feet. Prior to this work, it was the norm during the Renaissance to paint individual works on a smaller scale.
3. Unlike his contemporaries such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli chose to delve further into the past for his subject matter in the "Birth of Venus." While da Vinci was sourcing the Christian tradition for his art, Botticelli tapped into ancient Greek mythology.
4. The artist did not achieve public acclaim until four centuries after his death. It is no surprise that more popular High Renaissance painters such as Michelangelo, who was working on high-profile frescos on the the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, claimed the contemporary imagination of the day.
5. Modern technological testing reveals some of the revisions the artist made on his way to the final artwork. The Hora, or Spring goddess, to the right of Venus once wore sandals. The hair of Venus, Zephyr to her left and the goddess in his embrace also underwent transformation.
6. Venus' hair can be seen blowing in the wind (personified by the beings surrounding her), with some locks gathering on her shoulder. Upon closer inspection, an observer can see that the hair on her right shoulder wraps into a beautiful spiral. But that is not just any spiral. It is a perfect logarithmic spiral, discovered decades later as a naturally-occurring natural spiral also known as "the marvelous spiral."
7. The title of the painting, "The Birth of Venus," is not wholly accurate. It actually depicts the mythical events following her birth. However, this title is not original to the painting. It was added in the 19th century when people began taking notice of Botticelli's work.
8. Botticelli added golden touches after the painting was finished and framed. He highlighted the wings of the wind deities, the hair of the figures, their robes, the shell and some of the landscape elements.
9. Some art experts consider the wind deities to be the shining stars of the painting. The flow of their robes and the fluidity of their embrace creates a lovely mini-tableau.
10. "Birth of Venus" was ordered as a wedding gift for the cousin of Giuliano Medici and his brother Lorenzo. Due to its intended purpose and its unconventional nudity, it did not enter the public domain until many years after its completion. Instead, it hung above the new couple's marriage bed.
The Birth of Venus (Bouguereau)
The Birth of Venus ( La Naissance de Vénus ) is the name of an oil painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau from 1879. The 3 × 2.15 meter picture shows the birth of the goddess Venus , which according to a variant in Greek mythology from the Foam before the island of Cyprus was born.
Bouguereau's The Birth of Venus was recorded at the Paris Salon of 1879 and won the Prix de Rome . In the same year it was bought by the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris , where it was exhibited until 1920. It was then kept in the depot of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes before it returned to Paris in 1979 and has since been exhibited in the Musée d'Orsay .
The painting is a typical example of the academic art of its time, performed in a perfected naturalistic painting technique. Bouguereau relied on classic models, but always tried to bring the "original images" to life. During his “Birth of Venus” he increased the movements of the body and emphasized the curve of the hips a little more than was the case with the model - Aphrodite of Cyrene (Rome, thermal bath museum). The result of these small changes, which increased the erotic charisma of “Venus”, was well received by the audience. At the same time, thanks to the ancient model, he was above any moralizing criticism.
At the center of the painting, Venus stands nude on a scallop shell  being pulled by a dolphin, one of her symbols. Fifteen putti, including Cupid and Psyche, and several nymphs and centaurs have gathered to witness Venus' arrival. Most of the figures are gazing at her, and two of the centaurs are blowing into conch and Triton shells, signaling her arrival.
Venus is considered to be the embodiment of feminine beauty and sexuality, and these traits are shown in the painting.  Venus' head is tilted to one side, and her facial expression is calm, comfortable with her nudity. She raises her arms,  arranging her thigh-length, brilliantly red hair. She sways elegantly in an "S" curve contrapposto, emphasizing the feminine curves of her body. 
The model for Venus was Marie Georgine, princess of Ligne. In 1861, she was on a short holiday (séjours) in Paris with her twin flame (non-nobility). Together, they modeled for his "Abduction of Psyche" and "Flora and Zephyr". Bouguereau worked out other sketches and paintings later in life from photographs he took of the couple. Some of Bouguereau's other works, like La Nuit, are also based on her. Marie was also painted by Léon Bonnat. She has also been photographed by Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon as madame de la Rochefoucauld. Another portrait with Marie Georgine can be seen in Chateau d'Esclimont, France.
Venus' figure was enlarged from a nymph from Bouguereau's The Nymphaeum, completed in 1878 (a year earlier).  The nymph is slightly thinner, and her breasts are fuller and more rounded. Venus' contrapposto is more intense, and her hair is also longer and lighter than the nymph's, but she arranges it almost identically.
To the upper-left of the painting, there is a shadow in the clouds. It appears to be the silhouette of the artist, with a head, shoulder, arm, and a raised fist that would seem to hold a paintbrush. 
The Birth of Venus
And there, bubbling in the shimmery blue waters of the cytheran sea, there arose a young woman, with twirling red hair and beauty unparalleled by any other. She rose through the foam as though she was a pearl emerging from a newly cracked oyster. Floating she walked gracefully toward the shore and the creatures of the sea and sky looked upon her in awe as they stood in the presence of the newly born Goddess of Love and Beauty.
The image of the birth of Venus, the Roman goddess Love and Beauty, has been renowned by artists and literary creators throughout the ages. The first telling of the birth of Aphrodite was in the Theogony, a poem by Hesiod created sometime between 730-700 b.c in Greece. Known as Aphrodite, she was a beacon of love and sexuality in Greco-Roman culture. The name Aphrodite comes from the word aphros in Greek, meaning “seafoam” or “risen from foam.” The Romans adopted her as their goddess Venus. The goddess has been depicted in multiple pieces and expressions of art, whether it be in forms of literature, sculptures, or paintings, the tales of her beauty and allure have made her the muse for various creators. Venus has been depicted in several statues such as the Aphrodite Ourania and the Venus de Milo. There have also been several painted pieces depicting the goddess, three of the most famous versions of the painted Birth of Venus come from the artists Sandro Botticelli, Alexandre Cabanel, and William Adolphe-Bouguereau. All three of the artists created compositions that have been widely appreciated since their creation, each carries their own air of grace and beauty when describing the creation of the goddess, but which offers the most impactful in modern times?
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli was commissioned during the Renaissance period between the years 1403-1485 by Pierfrancesco de’Medici, who was part of the influential Medici family. This work portrays an accurate expression of the Birth of Venus as she emerges from the foam of the sea on a shell blown to shore to one of the Horai who awaits her to cloth her. This piece is serene, full of textured detail and balance between the West Wind and the Horai on shore. By far the most influential piece and the most iconic, this painting was the staple of Renaissance creating a dreamlike sequence this painting is also one of the most accurate to the original story of Aphrodite’s birth with the Horai and surrounding scenery. The vast amount of details such as the roses and texture of the sea are appealing to many modern audiences, the color scheme which also incorporates many neutral but dashes of pastel color are as aesthetically pleasing. When asked, many recognize Botticelli’s piece to be “the most iconic” of the three. The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli is by far one of the most widely recognized art pieces in history and is ranked in the top ten most famous paintings in the world.
The Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabenel is by far a softer and lower-key piece. It shows a simple depiction of a sleeping venus laying on top of the ocean while little Cherub’s celebrate around her. It was composed between 1823-1889, and unlike Botticelli’s, it is an oil on canvas piece, suggesting a thicker in-person composition and a less translucent piece. However the painting itself still keeps its dreamlike qualities with the color scheme that has heavy emphasis on Venus’s porcelain like skin and her hand daintily thrown across her face as is she has only just begun to awaken. Cabanel’s piece was bought by Napoleon III. Just like Botecelli’s, Cabanel’s work has status of influence, this specific piece being one of the staples of his era. Despite being an academic piece, Cabanel’s art steps away from the more conservative Botecelli piece and into a more erotic piece without offending the public. Despite the beauty in its composition some feel that the painting appears “washed out,” a friend of mine even said that Venus looks like a “dead body.” Cabanel’s piece incorporates many elements of his time into the piece which shows Aphrodite’s awakening and the serenity of her birth.
The final version of the Birth of Venus overlaps with the commission of Cabanel’s piece, being finished in 1879. William-Adolphe Bouguereau drew inspiration from the original birth of venus, shying away from a more “modest” piece like both Cabanel and Botticelli. Her illustrates Venus in a “sensual” and “erotic” way, putting emphasis on the ideal body type and beauty of the goddess. Bouguereau stepped away from the typical modesty of art and became of the first artists to depict women in a stylish and sensual way. The painting like those before depicts Venus in the middle as the center of attention–much like Botticelli’s piece. Venus is adored by many looking upon her except they appear to be more like Nymphs rather than actual minor gods such as the Horai and the Wind. Bouguereau plays around with placement of his characters, adding depth to the painting (which Botticelli’s lacks) and warmth to his subjects (by using various shades of peach and warm cream colors to illustrate her vivaciousness instead of emphasizing the porcelain-like quality of Aphrodite’s skin, which is what Cabanel did). Both of the foundational ideas of the paintings are expressed in Bouguereau’s piece: the display of Aphrodite’s nakedness as well as the layering effects of adding different spectators to the scene to admire Aphrodite. Despite being of the less well known pieces, this was sometimes seen as Bouguereau’s most influential piece, and modern audiences are awestruck by the angelic nature that Aphrodite posses.
Modern audiences are still heavily influenced by the works of artists past, but even with these three paintings alone, it is revealed how historical art influences later creators. Each piece holds foundational elements from their time period, and each was significant to their audience. The admiration for the Birth of Venus is one that rises and falls like the tides, but like the sea which Aphrodite was born, artists have always found a fascinating with the birth of the beautiful goddess.
‘And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass…. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.’
— Ezekiel 1: 6-11
‘From as early as the second millennium B.C. humanity has created artifacts and pictures of winged creatures, messengers angels. The ferocious and capable creatures described in Ezekiel are far from commonplace in modern depictions of the angelic orders so, what are angels? Who are they? What is their enduring appeal, and why do we still appear to have a need for—representation by—them?
The project briefing will take off on Monday morning at 9.30 from Studio 3 — on the back of a winged human-headed bull (a lamassu) dating from the Neo-Assyrian Period (721-705 B.C.E.) We’ll then ‘walk a sky together’ (after Sweeney Reed ) where in flight training will be provided by Vanessa Bell, Trisha Brown, Paul Klee, Sheila Legge, A.R. Penck and others … landing, unscheduled, later in the morning at Nikola Tesla airport in Belgrade. Thereafter, your task is a straightforward one: learn about an object or aspect of the subject that interests you reflect on it and, make Angel.’ — from the Project Brief
What follows are pictures, and pictures of artworks I made reference to in my introductory talk pictures too above of my notes. After this there is a list of other references provided in the project brief (under the headings of writing, music, film, radio and web) and all other information (titles of work, artists names, dates, photography credits etc.) may be found in the ‘tags’ at the bottom of the post.
The Birth of Venus
The Birth of Venus (French: La Naissance de Vénus) is one of the most famous paintings by 19th-century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It depicts not the actual birth of Venus from the sea, but her transportation in a shell as a fully mature woman from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus. She is considered the epitome of the Classical Greek and Roman ideal of the female form and beauty, on par with Venus de Milo.
For Bouguereau, it is considered a tour de force. The canvas stands at just over 9 ft 10 in (3.00 m) high, and 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) wide. The subject matter, as well as the composition, resembles a previous rendition of this subject, Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, as well as Raphael's The Triumph of Galatea.
The Birth of Venus was created for the Paris Salon of 1879. It was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome, and was purchased by the state for the Musée du Luxembourg. The painting is now in the permanent collection of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
At the center of the painting, Venus stands nude on a scallop shell being pulled by a dolphin, one of her symbols. Fifteen putti, including Cupid and Psyche, and several nymphs and centaurs have gathered to witness Venus' arrival. Most of the figures are gazing at her, and two of the centaurs are blowing into conch and Triton shells, signaling her arrival.
Venus is considered to be the embodiment of feminine beauty and form, and these traits are shown in the painting. Her head is tilted to one side, and her facial expression reflects that she is calm and comfortable with her nudity. She raises her arms, arranging her thigh-length, brown hair, swaying elegantly in an "S" curve contrapposto, emphasizing the curves of her body.
The model for Venus was Marie Georgine, princess of Ligne. In 1861, she was on a short holiday in Paris with her lover. Together, they modeled for Bouguereau's "Abduction of Psyche" and "Flora and Zephyr". He worked out Venus and other sketches and paintings later from photographs he took of the couple. Some of Bouguereau's other works, like La Nuit, are also based on her. Marie was also painted by Léon Bonnat and photographed by Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon.
Venus' figure was enlarged from a nymph from Bouguereau's The Nymphaeum, completed in 1878, a year earlier. The nymph is slightly thinner, and her breasts are fuller and more rounded. Venus' contrapposto is more intense, and her hair is also longer and lighter than the nymph's, but she arranges it almost identically.
To the upper-left of the painting, there is a shadow in the clouds. It appears to be the silhouette of the artist, with a head, shoulder, arm, and a raised fist that would seem to hold a paintbrush.
The most common form of historicism that reused styles of past ages, often in eclectic combinations, was the sensual, seductive, stylish portrayal of beautiful women, the supposed subject could be taken from Christianity, or from Greek or Roman myth. Bouguereau, an academy member since 1876, was one of the foremost artists of this kind. A devout Catholic, he was out to oppose traditional ethical values to the materialism of the world about him, but all he managed was the frisson of superficial delights. There was an unbridgeable gap between his art and that of Renoir, or indeed Cézanne.
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