Rebirth of Venus

Details Of Renaissance Paintings (Sandro Botticelli, Birth Of Venus, 1482) by Andy Warhol with a Dolce & Gabbana dress in the foreground at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Details Of Renaissance Paintings (Sandro Botticelli, Birth Of Venus, 1482) by Andy Warhol with a Dolce & Gabbana dress in the foreground at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.PHOTO: REUTERS

Botticelli's Venus is reimagined in London exhibition

LONDON• From Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in the 1962 James Bond film to fashion by Dolce & Gabbana, Sandro Botticelli's Birth Of Venus has been one of the most influential works in modern art history.

An exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London focuses on the legacy of the painting, created in Renaissance Italy around 1485, through fashion, photography and the visual arts more broadly. A grand tour organised by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the late 1930s helped to forge the global reputation of the work.

Co-curator Ana Debenedetti said part of its success is in the main subject: a woman with long blonde hair that fits the Western ideal of beauty.

"She fits the image of perfect beauty celebrated since the Middle Ages in poetry, literature and which was embedded in our imagination: the Western woman, blonde, with a pale complexion and a large forehead, blue eyes and a proud bearing," she said.

The Venus is found on everything from the 1993 spring/summer collection of Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana to a 2014 video game by Japan's Tomoko Nagao where she is seen floating over Italian pasta.

Brazil's Vik Muniz depicted her in 2007 surrounded by computer detritus, while China's Yin Xin reimagined her with typically Asian features.

The exhibition traces how Botticelli, though held in high esteem during his lifetime, was forgotten after his death in 1510 as his fame was supplanted by Renaissance masters Michelangelo and Raphael.

His works are also likely to have fallen foul of a new taste for modesty advocated by the preacher Girolamo Savonarola, who rose to power in Florence.

"His art fell into oblivion and was considered archaic," said Ms Debenedetti, noting that the artistic hub of Italy also shifted from Florence to Rome.

It took four centuries for Botticelli's reputation to be restored.

On show till July 3, the exhibition takes up three large rooms, with the final one reserved for about 50 of Botticelli's own works, including several Virgin Marys and portraits of young men and women from Florence's bourgeoisie.

As for the Birth Of Venus itself, art fans will have to travel to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to admire the original.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'Rebirth of Venus'. Print Edition | Subscribe