Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is one of the most recognizable Renaissance paintings, but perhaps even more recognizable is Warhol’s take on the image in his Details of Renaissance suite. In the suite, Warhol puts his own spin on the iconic image of Venus, a Roman goddess said to have been born of the sea––in mythology, comparable to the Greek Aphrodite. Notably, a trial proof from the series ranks amongst Warhol’s top 10 most valuable prints ever sold.
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus was commissioned by a member of the Medici family, one of the political dynasties and prominent banking families in Italy around the 16th century. The painting is said to present themes of humanism, the philosophical notion of human agency and the revival of classic ideals of the Roman Empire.
Botticelli’s painting depicts Venus among other figures, such as the wind god Zephyr and what are likely two of three Horae, minor goddesses who control the seasons. However, Warhol’s screen print renditions of the painting focus solely of the face of Venus, using variations of his signature style of color blocking and outlining to highlight her expression. Included in the Details of Renaissance: Birth of Venus complete portfolio are FS II. 316-319.
Birth of Venus as Part of Andy Warhol’s Larger Body of Work
Warhol was one of the revolutionaries of his time, leading the Pop Art movement. With his signature screen printing technique, he managed to create an abundant amount of works that each held significant value. By taking a variety of subjects to create his pieces, he would transform them to have a more contemporary, Pop Art feel. With the creation of a Pop Art version of the classic Italian Renaissance painting, Warhol redefines Venus’ status from an Italian icon to a pop culture celebrity like Marilyn Monroe. In this way, Warhol has taken a classical Renaissance subject and re-introduced the historical painting within a modern cultural context.