The series of portraits depicting adolescents at the beach is the most popular work by Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra. Like Botticelli’s Venus, they appear as monumental figures against the low horizon. Their half-adult, half-childlike body language is an unintentional reminder of the often-gauche figures depicted by the Florentine Renaissance master.
This study in profile was discovered in the Palazzo Medici in Florence. The subject was taken to be Simonetta Vespucci (1453-1476), a beauty well known in the city at the time. With the identity of the person established, the picture became very famous. Fashion and advertising have ensured a lasting comeback for this Botticelli Girl. As a direct result of it the painter has become an integral part of an omnipresent pop culture.
In her History Portraits series the artist Cindy Sherman displays her interest in Old Masters as constructs of reality. Here she re-creates these constructs in large-format photographs, working with a playful relish peppered with grotesque insights into her own methods.
This rendering of the Madonna surrounded by singing angels is eye-catching on account of its circular shape. Botticelli used this format – known as Tondo (from the Italian ‘rotondo’ = round) - in many of his paintings depicting Mary.
This picture of the Madonna flanked by the two Saint Johns was commissioned by the Bardi family for an altar in Santo Spirito Church in Florence. From there it was transferred in 1829, as a purchased work, to the new Berlin Gemäldegalerie (Old Master Paintings).
Depicted here is Giuliano de’ Medici (1453-1478), who was killed by conspirators in April 1478. The work was instrumental in establishing Botticelli as a pro-Medici artist. This view of Botticelli continues to dominate interpretations of works by him that had no link to the Medicis. Yet was Botticelli really hand-in-glove with Florence’s ruling family? Is his art political?
"The Birth of Venus" is not merely Botticelli’s best-known work; it is also an iconic work in the history of European art. All the more surprising, then, that the painting, which went on show to the general public for the first time in 1815, did not begin its gradual rise in popularity until the mid 19th century. Visiting the Uffizi with Degas, Gustave Moreau was so struck by the work that he produced a number of drawings, both of the painting as a whole and of individual figures, including this coloured sketch.
Parallel to his work for New York’s big fashion magazines, the American photographer Paul Himmel adored using technology to alter the level of abstraction in his pieces. Himmel’s portrait of a young woman at the beach was among pieces selected by the photographer and curator Edward Steichen for his epoch-making “Family of Men” show at the MoMA in 1955.
A young lady, simply but elegantly attired, is seated at a café table, one arm over the back of the chair and hands folded in her lap. In a brown study, she looks past the viewer, as if waiting for something. Antonio Donghi (1897-1963), an exponent of Magic Realism, uses aspects of posture and composition often encountered in the work of Botticelli and his contemporaries – the slightly deflected torso in the middle ground, the full-frontal pose, the use of large areas of colour and the inclusion of part of a framed interior in the background.
This Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli, with the subject looking directly at the observer, is one of Botticelli’s earliest works (1470-1475). It was acquired by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), a painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelite school. In creating likenesses of women, Rossetti was several times inspired by this work by Botticelli and was clearly fascinated by the directness and presence emanating from the lady as she contemplates her viewers.
The US photographer and director David LaChapelle (b. 1963) often borrows motifs from an earlier age for his vibrantly coloured photographs, a number of which draw on works by Botticelli. This 2009 piece, the "Rebirth of Venus", illustrates how Botticelli’s famous picture in the Uffizi has acquired the status of pop art. In it LaChapelle employs a technique shared by Botticelli, that of denaturalising the relationship between the subjects and their setting.
This video piece by New York artist Michael Joaquin Grey (b. 1961) is entitled "Between Simonetta" and was produced in 2011. It explores the theme of feminine beauty, central to an appreciation of Botticelli. A famous female study by Botticelli, the work known as Simonetta, is subjected to a process of continuous transmutation until it is so different from the original that the profile diverges from the idealistic form and takes on aspects of caricature.
This drawing is one of over 100 pictorial commentaries originally produced by Botticelli on Dante’s "Divine Comedy". 85 sheets found their way via English private collectors to the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. A few are coloured, such as the one of Dante and Virgil in Hell with devils herding damned souls down into the depths. The Dante illustrations are among Botticelli’s most famous works.
Bistolfi’s poster for a show of Art Nouveau works adopts compositional elements from Botticelli’s "Primavera" in the Uffizi Gallery. His reinterpretation of the dancing scene reveals the significance of Botticelli’s linearity for the ornamental forms of the Art Nouveau movement.
The video installations of Bill Viola (b. 1951) address themes of birth, death, bodily transformation and otherworldly experiences. In his "Going Forth By Day" (2002) he presents the acting out of an Ancient Egyptian text on the liberation of the soul from the body. After the individual has expired this liberation of the soul can occur in daylight. Availing himself of the Renaissance setting, Viola uses the image of people strolling between trees to convey pathos. As is the case in a number of Botticelli’s works, the rhythm of architectures or tree trunks confers a dynamism on horizontally laid-out lines of movement.
Botticelli has become a trademark of Italian elegance. Not surprising, then, that there is even a set of »Botticelli« alloy wheel rims. The diamond design at the hub recalls a broach worn by one of the three graces in Botticelli’s "Primavera" (Allegory of Spring) in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
A young woman touches her naked breast, from which a jet of milk spurts representing Charity or Abundance. Lack of clarity on the meaning behind the painting to this day leaves viewers at a loss and has inspired modern artists such as Cindy Sherman.
This Botticelli Venus harks back to the famous Birth of Venus at the Uffizi in Florence. Even before Botticelli’s death the "Birth of Venus" had achieved such prominent status that the principal character was taken out of the group and rendered on its own as a separate picture. Many Florentine palazzi in the Renaissance featured similar Venus images. Botticelli’s figure was to become one of the most celebrated motifs in the history of art. New interpretations of his Venus continue to appear today.
In the background of this painting by the symbolist painter Maurice Denis a reproduction can be seen of Botticelli’s "Madonna and Child with the young John the Baptist" from the Louvre. Denis uses this reference consciously to add an intensely religious connotation to this portrait of his wife and daughter.
Botticelli’s studio remained a very productive place even in the last years of his life, when Raffael, Leonardo and Michelangelo were also found working in Florence. His paintings in this later phase show not only a repetition of familiar formulas but also his interesting experimentation with an audaciously shortened perspective and dramatic stylistic formats.
With his martyrdom in progress, the young saint fixes the viewer with a firm, serene gaze. The facial expression, conveying belief in victory over Death, underscores the trust placed at the time in Saint Sebastian that he would protect people from the Bubonic plague.
The Chinese Yin Xin (b. 1959) addresses the traditions of Western art. He references famous old-master paintings, producing his own Asian-tinted interpretations. Protagonists and settings appear strangely familiar, yet foreign, as in this painting based on Botticelli’s famous Venus.
Degas sketched Botticelli’s Venus during visits to the Uffizi Gallery with his artist friend Gustav Moreau in 1858 and 1859. . It is a little-known fact that Degas, who was later to be seen as an Impressionist painter, was fascinated early on in his career by the quality of Botticelli’s linearity.
The poet and painter Rossetti developed the depiction of a sensitive female type, heavily influenced by Botticelli’s Madonnas and portraiture. He himself owned an important work by the Renaissance master – "Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli" (today in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London).
Botticelli also gave significant impetus to the pictorial genre “Portrait”, which was still a young genre in the 15th century. This chest portrait of a young man in a fur-trimmed waistcoat and red cap is counted among his literally appealing works, and, in 1921 for example, swept the art historian Berenson away into veritable storms of enthusiasm. With the head strikingly tilted to the side and the hand eloquently drawn towards the heart, the subject is directly appealing to the person opposite him. It is assumed that it is a portrait of an engagement.
This unusual depiction of the Birth of Christ is Botticelli’s only signed and dated painting. The enigmatic Greek inscription on the upper edge of the painting translates as: "I, Alessandro, painted this picture at the end of the year 1500 [1501 according to today’s calendar] in the turmoil of Italy, in the half-time after the time, during the fulfilment of the eleventh chapter of Saint John, in the second plague of the Apocalypse, while the Devil was released for three and a half years. After that he shall be bound in accordance with the twelfth chapter, and we shall see him […] as in this picture."
Like Botticelli’s Venus, the foam-born goddess of love depicted by French salon painter William Bouguereau also appears in classical contrapposto on a seashell. But in contrast to the 15th century model, she is not covering her genitals, but lifting her arms to arrange her long hair and thus reveals her body for viewing.
In her digital print, Japanese artist Tomoko Nagao (b. 1976, resident in Milan) has transposed Botticelli’s Birth of Venus into a world of material things endlessly promoted by the advertising industry and added an alienation aspect through references to computer games. In her picture, Venus emerges not from a seashell, as Botticelli has her doing, but from a portable gaming console surrounded by consumer brands such as EasyJet and Barila.