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Sandro Botticelli


Botticelli painted big colorful celebrations of Renaissance themes like a fertile springtime or Primavera. His Birth of Venus, the first large-scale depiction of a naked women in a thousand years, symbolized the optimism of the age.

Complete Video Script

[42] By the late-1400s, the Florentine Renaissance was in full bloom, and that exuberant spirit is best found in the big, colorful paintings of Sandro Botticelli. As a member of the Medici circle — he was even a friend of Lorenzo the Magnificent — he studied their collection of ancient statues.

[43, Sandro Botticelli, 1445–1510; Venus and Mars, 1483, National Gallery, London] Botticelli found inspiration in the balanced compositions, the naked beauty, and secular, humanistic outlook. As he painted, he created visions of pure beauty that captured the optimistic springtime — or primavera — of the Renaissance.

[44, Spring (a.k.a. La Primavera), c. 1482, Botticelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence] Here, in a celebration of fertility, as a nymph escapes the cold west wind, she sprouts flowers from her lips and transforms into the goddess of Spring, who spreads blossoms from her dress. The Three Graces do a delicate dance, while a blindfolded Cupid happily shoots arrows of love without worrying who they'll hit. In the center stands Venus, the goddess of love, framed by a halo of leaves as she presides over a delightful scene of beauty, joy, and love.

[45, The Birth of Venus, c. 1485, Botticelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence] The epitome of Early Renaissance beauty may be Botticelli's The Birth of Venus — the first large-scale depiction of a naked woman in a thousand years. Born from the foam of a wave, Venus is just waking up. The world itself seems fresh and newly born. The god of the wind sets the whole scene in motion. Floating ashore on her scallop shell, Venus takes center stage. Botticelli creates an ideal world — perfectly lit. The bodies curve harmoniously, the faces are idealized, and their gestures exude grace. Naked as a newborn, Venus symbolized the optimism of the Renaissance.