Essay, Research Paper: Botticelli`s Women


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Botticelli is one of the most famous artists during the Italian Renaissance. He
was very well know for the portrayal of the female figure and his ability to
incorporate femininity as a symbol of life itself and/or nature illustrated by
the changes of seasons. Botticelli most famous figure was that of Venus, the
goddess of love. She was incorporated into two of his most famous works, The
Birth of Venus and Primavera. Most of Botticelli’s women had that typical
hourglass figure to them . During the time period in which these works were
created, women with the physical characteristics of Venus were considered to be
the ideal feminine figure. These women were considered to be ideal because
during this era, flesh was a symbol of health, wealth, and stability (“Sandro
...”, 1). Women of this built were obviously healthy because this showed that
they ate well and were thus financially secure. Thin women on the other hand
were viewed as being poor and thus underfed and unhealthy due to lack of funds
and hard labor. Also, men viewed Venus (especially her wide hips) to be the
perfect figure, because they saw that type of figure to be designed especially
for the purposes of child bearing (Turner 151). Venus, the goddess of love, is
illustrated in Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, as the ultimate
glorification of the female figure, because this painting depicts the beginning
of all beginnings, which is the birth of the goddess of love herself. It depicts
this image because she is drawn as a “pure” person, not knowing much about
what is happening. Botticelli does not show any signs of disrespect towards
women. In fact in this painting, even though the goddess is Rizzo 2 nude, he
depicts her in such a fashion that shows she has self-confidence and lack of
embarrassment. The arm that covers her breasts and the log hair covering the
genitals is how she is preventing herself from being “exposed” and
essentially how he maintains her modesty (Dempsey, 35). Botticelli also
delineates the love goddess to be sexy. He creates this illusion by giving her
the long, wavy, golden hair. In general, long hair is considered to be sexy.
Botticelli adds the wind factor, which in turn makes Venus more attracting
because it leaves to the mind the imagination of her becoming nude if she did
not hold the hair in the position that he placed it. The slight coverage of the
breasts and the genitals is what makes Venus to be a very sexy and attractive
woman. Revealing just a slight bit of the private areas is very attracting. It
leaves to the imagination the rest of the picture. Botticelli represents the
beauty of his women in another of his famous works. In “Primavera,” he
depicts the birth of a new beginning. Back in that time period, spring meant new
life. Flowers bloomed and people survived harsh winters. Botticelli is brilliant
in the way he depicts this rebirth. The chronology of “Primavera” runs right
to left, contrary to the pictorial sequence in the standard painting. He depicts
the painting in this order because according to the Roman calendar, spring
unfolded from right to left (Turner, 152). The painting begins with Chloris.
Chloris is supposedly the reason for the appearance of Flora, the goddess of
flowers. Chloris was raped by Zephyr, the man all the way to the right of the
painting (Dempsey, 44). The flowers Rizzo 3 that come out of her mouth, onto
Flora’s dress (whom Chloris was transformed into after the rape), symbolize
the birth of a new beginning. This is said to be the part where the new
beginning comes about. The flowers from Flora then begin to emerge from the
bottom of Venus’s feet. Venus in this painting is once again meant to be the
beginning of the beginning of a new life. Spring is the known to be the
beginning of new life because that meant that one survived the harsh winters. In
this painting, Venus symbolizes the survival of the past season. The three
goddesses to the left of Venus symbolize the blooming of the upcoming season
(Dempsey, 62). Even though the artist uses these women as a symbol of something,
he still shows much respect for them by putting some form of coverage on their
figures. The shapes of the women’s bodies in Botticelli’s paintings are all
very similar to one another. When the women are revealing their bodies, they
have the typical hourglass figure. When the women are clothed however, he makes
them appear as if they were fuller in figure (bigger in the belly area).
Botticelli’s women have another similarity. The faces of these women all have
a quiet, yet sophisticated look to them. None of his women seem to be the type
of woman that speaks out about what she feels and wants. It’s as if one must
read their facial expressions to understand what it is they are trying to say or
interpret what they want. Lastly, all his women have that gorgeous, wavy hair
that makes them attracting to look at and very sexy. Rizzo 4 Botticelli had a
way of depicting his women in a sexy, yet respectable manor. He never did a
“bad” portrayal of the woman figure. In conclusion, Botticelli’s women
were always depicted as the ideal women of the Renaissance time period. The
women in his paintings were never diminished or disrespected. Rizzo 5
Deimling, Barbara. Botticelli. Germany: Benedikt Taschen, 1994. Dempsey,
Charles. The Portrayal of Love. New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1992. The Great
Masters: Botticelli. Genoa: Park Lane, 1994. Turner, A. Richard. Renaissance
Florence: The Invention of a New Art. London: Calmann & King, 1997.
“Sandro Botticelli.”, 1998.

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