The paintings I have chosen for this assignment have many similarities, including the title of the work. When thumbing through the textbook (Living with Art ), I did not skip any pages when looking for subjects. I started at the back of the book and found my first subject on page 479. When I saw it, I automatically knew which painting I would choose for the comparison.
On page 479 I found “The Birth of Venus” by William- Adolphe Bouguereau, created in 1879 and currently housed in Musee d’ Orsay, Paris, France. I had never seen this oil on canvas painting, but immediately knew the subject content and began looking for “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli, created in 1480 and currently housed in Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy. I finally found the Botticelli piece on page 370 in the textbook.
The first similarity we immediately notice is the title. These paintings have the same subject matter, which is the Roman Goddess Venus standing on a clam shell in the water surrounded by mythological figures. Bouguereau created his composition about 400 years after Botticelli. The Birth of Venus has been depicted many times in the history of art. Venus is the Goddess of love, beauty, sex, and prosperity. It only seems fitting that artists want to create her and others want to study this muse.
Botticelli created his Venus during the Renaissance, which is evident in the style of the painting. Botticelli used Tempera on Canvas. The color scheme I observe is mostly complementary using 5 Main colors, those being blue, orange, red, green, and white. Botticelli balances these colors by using them on opposite sides of the work. For example, if you look at the lady figure on the right of the canvas, she has orange hair and is holding a red cloth. When you look on the left side of the canvas you see that the wind god is wearing a blue cloth and both he and his companion have green wings. When looking at the fabrics in this work, we also see much detail of wrapping and draping, which was common in Renaissance work. The color disbursement also gives the viewer a weighed balance.
In Bouguereau’s Venus painting we see a similar theme of the complementary colors, except Bauguereau uses mainly blue and orange hues with white. An example of this is the light blue of the sky against the peach skin of the cherubs. This work is balanced in color but has more of a balance that moves around the canvas. The colors in both paintings have a different style. In Bouguereau’s work the colors are very pale and have a heavenly feel about them. In Botticelli’s work the colors are more intense and have an earthly feel.
The Venus in Botticelli’s work is approaching land on her giant floating clam shell. The color tells us this is a more earthly painting. The main emphasis is on Venus and her body, which is portrayed in perfect form. On the left side of the painting, the wind god is blowing on Venus, which symbolizes that she is coming to life. The lady on the right is holding the cloth and awaiting to robe Venus.
The line work in Botticelli’s composition - especially the clam shell and fabrics - is very detailed. These pieces give the artwork much movement on the three sides of Venus, which greatly emphasize her presence. The hard lines in this work add to the earthly feel. These hard lines also make this piece feel more two- dimensional. The loose background also makes the work feel flat. The water and the area where the water meets the land does not have much depth, thus making it less interesting to the eye. Botticelli does use a consistent repetitive pattern on the water.
In comparison, Bouguereau’s composition showcases Venus as the emphasis and center location as well; however, the artist offers us a more aqueous, heavenly approach. The soft colors and soft lines flow gracefully around the composition, giving the viewer a more three- dimensional aesthetic. The circular light pattern gives us the unified movement. Through this movement, a viewer feels the rhythm of the sky and sea. The soft brush strokes in the sky give the clouds and cherubs a more flowing approach. The clam shell in this work is the weighted center piece upon which the muse rests. The clam shell in this work has more movement due to the soft lines. The portion of the work with the sea and figures has a more abrupt standstill, causing the viewer’s eyes to focus on Venus.
To continue the comparison, in both paintings, Venus is the unifying element, which ties all of the elements to the center of the composition. The construction of the form on both Venus figures is almost identical in stature. Both have one leg slightly bent in and they also have similar hair length and color. The art placement of arms and torso definition is configured differently, which might convey different meaning depending on the viewer. The reoccurring emphasis is always placed on Venus as the core viewing point. In Botticelli’s work, the core of Venus’ form is much more muscular and compact. Bouguereau’s work gives Venus a more rounded form; one could suggest that this is to show the curves and beauty of Venus. Perhaps, the ideal of perfect proportions changed over the course of 400 years. Despite this difference, the works of art still depicted the flawless form and beauty of the Goddess of Love.
Both paintings having the same subject content make it easy to process the visual elements. The colors are complementary and cohesive in both works. The line work in both is refreshingly refined. The female form of Venus is held to the true standards of time and motion in each composition. The 400-year time gap between these paintings definitely shows us that the basic formula for an aesthetically-pleasing composition does not change often. As long as a piece of art has the unity of movement, all the other elements fall perfectly into place. In both works, Venus is the abrupt halt to where the emphasis is immediately taken. This only seems fitting since she is the eminent perspective of what many perceive as true beauty.
Lucinda, a native of Kentucky, grew up near Lexington in the small town of Versailles. At a very early age she started to demonstrate her creativity. Lucinda has been developing her style and technique for over 10 years and continues to explore new depths to express herself through art.