William Bouguereau: The Birth of Venus
The Birth of Venus (French: La Naissance de Vénus) is one of the most famous paintings by 19th-century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It depicts not the actual birth of Venus from the sea, but her transportation in a shell as a fully mature woman from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus. She is considered the epitome of the Classical Greek and Roman ideal of the female form and beauty, on par with Venus de Milo.
For Bouguereau, it is considered a tour de force. The canvas stands at just over 9 ft 10 in (3.00 m) high, and 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) wide. The subject matter, as well as the composition, resembles a previous rendition of this subject, Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, as well as Raphael's The Triumph of Galatea.
At the center of the painting, Venus stands nude on a scallop shell being pulled by a dolphin, one of her symbols. Fifteen putti, including Cupid and Psyche, and several nymphs and centaurs have gathered to witness Venus' arrival. Most of the figures are gazing at her, and two of the centaurs are blowing into conch and Triton shells, signaling her arrival.
Venus is considered to be the embodiment of feminine beauty and form, and these traits are shown in the painting. Her head is tilted to one side, and her facial expression is calm, comfortable with her nudity. She raises her arms, arranging her thigh-length, brown hair, swaying elegantly in an "S" curve contrapposto, emphasizing the curves of her body.
The model for Venus was Marie Georgine, princess of Ligne. In 1861, she was on a short holiday in Paris with her lover. Together, they modeled for Bouguereau's Abduction of Psyche and Flora and Zephyr. He worked out Venus and other sketches and paintings later from photographs he took of the couple. Some of Bouguereau's other works, like La Nuit, are also based on her. Marie was also painted by Léon Bonnat and photographed by Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon. [Wikipedia]