The Birth of Venus. Why is this such an important painting? First, let’s look at who Venus is. Venus is the Ancient Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty. After all, what’s more important to an artist than love and beauty?
The Ancient Greeks and the Romans pretty much gave us Western culture. To this day, even though they’ve been gone for thousands of years, we have everything from political concepts to our concepts of beauty from them.
So as far as I’m concerned, the Birth of Venus is one of the most significant paintings ever painted. But which one? Which is the most significant Birth of Venus painting?
You’ve seen Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It’s all over prints, posters, and even was parodied on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Don’t get me wrong. I love that piece too. But I really love Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus. The latter is an example of what I loved about 19th Century art.
Painted in 1863, this painting is currently in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. When we hit Paris, I need to see this one in real life. Napoleon III bought it upon completion. I’m not going to get into the historical politics of the 19th century leaders, but I got to give them at least some credit – they had better taste than today’s leaders. (By far, but that’s not saying much).
You may love impressionism. I’m fine with that. I respect it as an art form. I’m just not a fan with it.
Cabanel hated it. He was at war with impressionism like I’m at war against Post-Modernism.
Anyways, yes, Cabanel hated the impressionists and since he was a Professor at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he did everything he could to keep them out. Which of course backfired miserably. But that’s another story for another day.
I appreciated Cabanel’s work immensely, especially this one. A long-haired red-headed Goddess who comes to life atop of waves. Nude with a body perfection. Of course she’s a Goddess. I’m blessed to have two models this beautiful that I work with.
I’m all about beauty. I’ve seen sunrises over the California coast, sunsets in Hawaii and the Caribbean, too many waterfalls to count. I love nature. I’m in awe of nature. But I still have to say that NOTHING compares to a beautiful nude woman. To even think a beautiful nude woman is obscene is an obscenity in itself. There is nothing obscene about beauty. Nothing. People who want to censor beauty are sick and twisted bastards and in my eyes, deserve to spend their last days floating on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Cabanel captured beauty. He captured it in such an intense way that his painting is magical. If you want to see real life magic, this is it, just like hearing real life magic is hearing a good rendition of something like Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.
Other Birth of Venus paintings
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus
This infamous one was done in 1486 by Sandro Botticelli and commissioned by the Medici family. Another rant for another time – this is what’s wrong with today’s new rich. Back then, rich people had class and they had character.
Today’s? They do not appreciate art like they used to. They do not sponsor artists and composers like they used to.
This is the most significant of all the Birth of Venus paintings. It’s not my favorite. But it’s the most historically significant.
Anyways, I love Botticelli’s work. (Note the S Curve).
It’s great on its own, but my favorite Birth of Venus paintings were painted in the 19th Century. Cabanel’s is my favorite. That’s the one above Botticelli’s.
My second favorite is Bouguereau’s, which was created in 1879 and like Cabanel’s, it is at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris today. A friendly reminder to anyone who happens to visit Paris soon.
Bouguereau’s Birth of Venus
Bouguereau gets it. He understood female beauty and female sexuality. He captured it perfectly in this one. I love everything about this painting, from the nymphs and the centaurs to the magical waters themselves. Plus, what these three paintings have in common is they all have gorgeous red-headed models. I’m not at all complaining.
There are others. But I just listed my three favorites.