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  • So this is a mini lecture on the subject of Botticelli's painting known as the Birth of

  • Venus and I shall be discussing with you what the painting is really about. This is the

  • painting. It is a very very well known painting which is why I'm discussing it, but I want

  • to give some indication of the range of ways a painting like this can be discussed. It's

  • a celebrated work of art, it is the high point of a visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

  • It is a major tourist attraction, it's in the biggest room, it has the biggest crowd in front

  • of it. There's more to it than that. It's also seen as a cultural icon and a commercial

  • asset so you often see the image called upon for all kinds of merchandise from t-shirts

  • to garden ornaments. And then it's renowned as a landmark of European art. But we can examine

  • with paining in other ways too and I'm going to do so in relation to a series of specific

  • questions so they're all framed as question so we'll begin like this and carry on our

  • first of all what is the painting's subject? This isn't really very difficult to answer.

  • There's a figure of Venus, goddess of love in the middle standing in a shell being washed

  • up on a beach blown there by the winds you see on the left and welcomed by a maiden that

  • you see on the right so that's the subject but then there's this puzzling question perhaps

  • of why is it that so many people like this painting so much it must be something to do

  • with the kind of linearity and harmonious design it must be to do with the clarity and

  • the brightness of the colors, the use of gold and so on so it has all the features in addition

  • to this presentation of a beautiful young woman at the paintings centre I might want

  • to add at this point that the painting today probably isn't quite as glorious as it was

  • originally when the colours would have been brighter especially the greens of the trees

  • and the blue of the sky so it would originally have been a feast of color another question

  • we might ask of the painting and I'll come back to this later is whether we think the

  • painting has any faults. We might want to think about whether he could have done the

  • anatomy of the woman better or whether he could have represented the trees more accurately

  • or whether he could have done a more detailed or more logical landscape behind. And in some

  • senses these can all be regarded as not at the forefront of the leaders of renaissance

  • painting in his time. But I want to come back to that point in a little while's time. We

  • can also link the painting or can we to particular innovations in art at this particular moment.

  • Two in particular comes to mind and the third follows from that first of all there is the

  • novelty of representing the nude. The nude woman. It's a very unusual occurrence. There

  • are very few paintings of nude individuals nude within from the heart beforehand. They

  • are usually restricted to representations or Eve such as the one I'm showing you on

  • the right. What we have here is an image or a beautiful woman flouting the beauty and

  • one who is unusually and remarkably in direct engagement with the viewer and this is a very

  • striking characteristic of this world. Then there is the novelty of mythological art and

  • this in the 1480s was very much a new type of painting. So a painting of the Olympian

  • gods dealing with mythological subject. And from that we can then begin to think about

  • how the painting could have connected with mythological texts. There are texts of many

  • kinds which are connectable to this painting. So for example there is a description by the

  • Roman writer Pliny of a famous painting by the famous Greek artists Apennes on the subject

  • of Venus rising from the sea, which is the subject of Botticelli's painting. There are

  • also passages poems, which deal with Venus in remarkably similar ways. This is an extract

  • from a Homeric hymn. It goes like this. Of august gold-wreathed and beautiful Aphrodite

  • I shall sing, to whose domain belong the battlements of all sea-laved Cyprus where, blown by the

  • moist breath of Zephyrus, she was carried over the waves of the resounding sea on soft

  • foam. The gold-filleted Horae - personifications of the time of the day - happily welcomed

  • her and clothed her with heavenly raiment. . So this is an ancient Greek poem known at

  • the time which has similarities with the painting. but we might want to consider just how closely

  • or otherwise the painting actually corresponds with the story. There are many similarities

  • but there is not a one-to-one correspondence. But equally we can find modern texts such

  • as the famous poem by Angelo Poliziano ou alone, although chaste, may safely enter the

  • realm of Venus and Love; you alone rule over love poetry; often Love himself comes to sing

  • with you; having put down the quiver from his shoulder, he tries the strings of your

  • beautiful lyre. But joyful Spring is never absent: she unfolds her blonde and curling

  • hair to the breeze and ties a thousand flowers in a garland. This army accompanies your sons,

  • fair Venus, mother of the cupids. Zephyr - the West Wind - bathes the meadow with dew, spreading

  • a thousand lovely fragrances: wherever he flies he clothes the countryside in roses,

  • lilies, violets, and other flowers; the grass marvels at its own beauties, white blue, pale,

  • and red. So again we have a poem. It can be thought of as being similar in all sorts of

  • respect to the painting but the two are simply not the same. People have often said they're

  • pretty much the same but they're not and there are other explanations of our painting which

  • we might want to consider. What other factors might want to consider? Well the first of

  • these would be to consider the suitability of the painting to a particular kind of location.

  • Now we don't want that location was originally but there are some clues. So for example the

  • painting is executed very unusually on canvas. It is first mentioned in the 16th century

  • as being located in a villa Medici near Florence. So we're dealing with a transportable work

  • of art which may well have been intended for a villa location. So who was the person responsible

  • for having it painted? Well it was almost certainly painted for Lorenzo de Medici, that

  • is Lorenzo the Magnificent or some close associate of his. That is why the painting features

  • prominently laurel in the background because the Latin and Italian words for laurel chime

  • with the name Lorenzo. So I'm seeking to find explanation for the laurel and the explanation

  • would seem to be the similarity with the name Lorenzo. As for the sort of room that would

  • have been painted for. Well that's rather hard because such rooms really don't exist

  • very much in Florence. What I'm showing you here is a fourteenth-century room in Florence

  • of a kind where I'm proposing the painting might originally have been located. So it's

  • sort of multi-purpose room, richly decorated, but I want to draw your attention to some

  • of the decorations. The rich colors, the Arcadian treatment of stories around an upper frieze

  • which depict amorous matter this is in some general sense like the subject matter of the

  • Birth of Venus. Or here's another room in the Palazzo Davanzati in Florence and I just

  • want to draw your attention to the imitation wall hangings of on the wall which perhaps

  • helps us understand why there is a kind of aspect to the Birth of Venus which may remind

  • us of tapestries. So it's the kind of work of art which would fit into an environment

  • of the sort that I'm representing in these interiors from Palazzo Davanzati. But there

  • are other kinds of reading we can also take from our painting. So we can think about the

  • painting for example as a representation of philosophical ideas and as some kind of allegory.

  • It's not too difficult to think this through. So for example if we know that Venus is the

  • goddess of love we can surely see that the painting represents the arrival in the world

  • of Venus or in other words of love. So it's about the coming to the world of the representative

  • of love. We can also notice associations which are immediately relevant with works of art

  • of other kinds. What I'm showing you here is a comparison between Botticelli and a much

  • earlier work by Florentine artist Lorenzo Ghiberti of the baptism of Christ and I'm

  • hoping you're going to agree that the compositions are remarkably similar. So there are fluttering

  • angels on the left. There is a naked little figure in the middle and there is a kind of

  • figure with an outstretched arm on the right-hand side standing in front of the tree and the

  • central figure is in both cases immersed in water. So the question is why did Botticelli

  • make his painting so like a traditional representation of a baptism? And the answer is presumably

  • to do with the meaning of baptisms. Because the baptism represents the inauguration of

  • the ministry of Christ on earth in the world. So correspondingly Botticelli's painting represents

  • the inauguration of the ministry of love in the world. But you're supposed to see the

  • similarities with a baptism in Botticelli's image of the Birth of Venus which would therefore

  • have a comparable meaning. There are other dimensions to this to which I won't go in

  • to very much but if we think of the painting as representing the arrival of Venus it can

  • then have a political dimension. The arrival of Venus is being associated with laurel,

  • which references Lorenzo the magnificent, and the many flowers in the painting are then

  • representative of Florence. The word meaning city of flowers. So love is being associated

  • with Florence and with Lorenzo de Medici. There are in addition other visual illusions

  • that are made by the painting to the extent that we might begin to want to consider the

  • painting to be an example of what I'm going to call visual poetry. So for instance the

  • idea of the goddess of love being born from a shell is an idea, which is borrowed out

  • of ancient Roman art, which sometimes depicts the goddess Venus has been encased in a shell.

  • and then each of the individual groups in the painting can likewise be equated by examples

  • of past art. so it's quite obvious I think that the pose and deportment the central figure

  • recalls representations of Venus in ancient art. It's less well known that the group

  • of flying figures, the winds on the left inside, chime with representations of such figures

  • on in ancient Roman art such as this glorious cup I'm showing on the left hand side which

  • was a possession of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Then the figure on the right seems to be rather

  • closely related to representations of maidens which you can again find in ancient relief

  • sculpture known at this particular moment. So the thing sort of borrows from all sorts

  • of sources and puts them together into a new configuration and in such a way that you could

  • think about bits and pieces of the painting and make all sorts of association both with

  • ideas and with other works of art. Now finally I'm going to come back to the problem which

  • I mentioned at the start which is the painting advanced or otherwise in its style? It's

  • very flat. It's very unsophisticated from the point of view of the minuteness of the

  • representation of nature. It makes a big comparison with another work from around the same period

  • this time of a baptism by Andrea del Verrocio and Leonardo Da Vinci. So the compositions

  • are similar but the painting on the right by Verrocio and Leonardo is all about nature.

  • All about atmosphere. all about shadows. All about detailed representation of landscape.

  • And in connection with landscape it is quite interesting to note that Leonardo said of

  • Botticelli - Botticelli paints very sorry landscapes. So taking all this into account

  • we might very reasonably conclude that the painting falls short of some people's ideas

  • of a notion of artistic advancement. So that is the case, but the question then is does

  • the painting's style actually contribute to its subject and its merits and I'm proposing

  • that it does. It's not about reality, it's about a world of the imagination. It is set

  • out in this very clear way, sequential way that allows you to dwell on the significance

  • of the subject and the beauties of the subject. So that is part of the point of the painting.

  • So here we are at the end of this short lecture and the question I hope is do we understand

  • this painting a little bit better that we did at the start and the answer is that I

  • hope we do! Thank you all very much

So this is a mini lecture on the subject of Botticelli's painting known as the Birth of

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ボッティチェリ-ヴィーナスの誕生 (Botticelli - The Birth of Venus)

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    Caurora に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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