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Due: December 4, 2007




“The Naked Truth.”

By: Joshua Smith
Kevin Forman
Art History through the 15th century


       ...
Due: December 4, 2007


Praxiteles, as his Venus looks a more modest Aphrodite. The way each goddess gestures with

her ha...
Due: December 4, 2007


crashing sea that would normally been seen here in reality. With Zephyrus, the west wind,

blowing...
Due: December 4, 2007


did not help matters that Phryne was said to be one of the most beautiful of women and that

many ...
Due: December 4, 2007


to experiment with their graceful styles. The biggest and probably most transparent

differences b...
Due: December 4, 2007


  goddess’ figure give the audience the best appreciation for what are possibly two of the most

 ...
Due: December 4, 2007


Fred S. Kleiner & Christin J. Mamiya

©2006 Thomson Wadsworth

http://www.library.ucla.edu/arts/we...
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19th Century Art History Paper:: Compare & Contrast

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My term paper, comparing and contrasting two pieces of 19th century art.

The sculpture, "Aphrodite of Knidos" by Praxiteles.
and Sandro Botticelli's painting "Birth of Venus."

Published in: Education, Technology

19th Century Art History Paper:: Compare & Contrast

  1. 1. Due: December 4, 2007 “The Naked Truth.” By: Joshua Smith Kevin Forman Art History through the 15th century Throughout the history of art the human form has intrigued artisans and their audiences. While the human form has always been an acceptable muse, the nude female form still today stirs up controversy. When Praxiteles sculpted Aphrodite of Knidos (350-340 B.C.), of the Greek late classical period, a risqué nude sculpture that put the island of Knidos on the map as a must see tourist attraction, the idea of a nude goddess had never been rendered. Approximately 1,100 years after Aphrodite of Knidos, Sandro Botticelli depicted the goddess Venus nude in his painting Birth of Venus (ca. 1482) during the Early Italian Renaissance, a time when the frantic Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola preached strict boundaries and improvement in society. Although there is exquisite beauty in both works by Praxiteles and Botticelli, there are also distinctions that allow each piece to stand on its own. On the surface there is much similarity between Aphrodite of Knidos and Birth of Venus. Even with a quick glance the similarities in the form of each goddess is apparent. We cannot deny that before us a beautiful goddess stands nude and exposed. Aphrodite and Venus might have been caught in an indecent moment but both have nonchalantly managed to cover their most private of parts, it is only Venus who’s able to cover most of her naked body with her long golden locks of hair. Botticelli seems to have been inspired by the style of 1
  2. 2. Due: December 4, 2007 Praxiteles, as his Venus looks a more modest Aphrodite. The way each goddess gestures with her hands attracts the eye, curiously on lookers wonder what the goddess has to hide. The artists however, seem to have thought their respect of the goddess through by giving her at least a glimpse of privacy. Due to the circumstances of Aphrodite and Venus’ current vulnerable situation their facial expressions are surprisingly poised to the point of being smirk-like. Although Praxiteles managed to carve a more accurate symmetrical depiction of the female form, Botticelli’s Venus with her long neck and sloping shoulders still manages to covey the softness that we see in Aphrodite of Knidos. The softness is a key to the likeness of these two forms, standing contrapposto, utilizing open composition to make audiences wonder what is so interesting or what piece of the story they are missing out on. Botticelli expands Venus’ likeness of Praxiteles’ Aphrodite as her skin is made to look stone like as if she herself is a sculpture. These stylistic similarities are part of what gives Aphrodite and Venus their allure and oozing sensual sexuality. In the world of art you can never take the whole work at face value. Both Aphrodite of Knidos and Birth of Venus are iconographic in nature. Although Botticelli’s painting of Venus is far more symbolic than Praxiteles’ sculpture, both works have their share of “hidden meaning.” In Birth of Venus the audience sees the Goddess Venus the moment she is born from the sea foam. Venus has rode to the shore from what appears to be a calm blue sea carried on a giant cockle shell, which has been a recurring representation for the women’s vulva. Hierarchy of scale makes the cockleshell of grave importance, hinting to the sexual arousal that Venus illuminates. As for the calm blue sea, it does not appear to be the wild and 2
  3. 3. Due: December 4, 2007 crashing sea that would normally been seen here in reality. With Zephyrus, the west wind, blowing his breeze it is astounding that there is not one wave behind Venus. This could easily be a demonstration of the power and control the gods have over the humanly world and its elements. As far as Aphrodite of Knidos is concerned her Havelock helps viewers to understand that the nudity of the goddess can be seen to symbolize her heavenly birth from the sea. Aphrodite’s gesture shielding her genitalia does not in anyway represent shame but rather her fertility. Not only do the hydria and the drapery help the sculpture stand, function and with compositional proportions but it represents the eternal youth through ritual cleansing and renewal. Another symbolic feature of Aphrodite is the bracelet that decorates her arm, which, is said to have been a token for Praxiteles’ model and courtesan. The iconographic representations in Praxiteles and Botticelli’s art works brings a whole lot more depth and intelligence to the nude form of their goddess and helps put a bit or originality into each. When it comes to controversy Praxiteles and Botticelli had a way of calling out to it. Both of theses artisans created masterpieces that were not only classic beauties inspired by the art of ancient Egyptians but also at the same time were ahead of their time in subject matter and with their ability to capture pathos instead of the traditional ethos. Just looking into the face of either goddess and you can feel her emotion rather than a sense of her ethics. The nude female forms that were depicted before Praxiteles created Aphrodite of Knidos were that of courtesans or slave girls, never had there been a goddess or noblewomen fashioned with no clothes. It is said that Praxiteles use the courtesan Phryne as a model for the statue, which added to the controversial subject and gossip that was already revolving around this piece. It 3
  4. 4. Due: December 4, 2007 did not help matters that Phryne was said to be one of the most beautiful of women and that many believed her beauty had been bestowed on earth by the gods, so much so that even priests were tempted by her beauty. The thing that makes this significant is that not only does Praxiteles portrays a goddess, but he decides to mimic one of the most admired goddesses, the goddess of love, lust and beauty, with a mere mortal mistress. The funny thing is that Botticelli’s Birth of Venus too had a courtesan in the central of his inspiration. Some experts thought that Botticelli’s painting was “a celebration of the love of Giuliano di Piero de’Medici for Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci,” a beautiful woman who lived in a town near the sea which was thought to be the birthplace of Venus. If subject matter was not enough for these artists to stir up controversy then the fact that the models for the two most beautiful depictions of Aphrodite and Venus happened to be courtesans definitely would. Although today we do not see much religious art in our everyday lives, our society could see the parallels of these to propagandistic pieces and the everyday advertisements that we are being hit with. The nude female for is not something that most people are use to seeing on a regular basis. Even the clothed female form still creates uproars in society. The biggest differences between Aphrodite of Knidos and Birth of Venus are pretty black and white. Praxiteles and Sandro Botticelli were two very different artists in two very different periods in time; there lives having been over a thousand years apart from one another. Praxiteles was born into a family of sculptors. Arguably Praxiteles best works were done in the Greek Late Classical period whereas, Botticelli was one of the fathers of the Early Italian Renaissance. Both Praxiteles and Botticelli had very unique styles and were not afraid 4
  5. 5. Due: December 4, 2007 to experiment with their graceful styles. The biggest and probably most transparent differences between the Aphrodite of Knidos and Birth of Venus are medium, artist, culture and their period. Other differences such as the fact that Aphrodite has a more genre scene feel to it, as she gets ready to take her bath while Venus is born from the sea, a not so everyday event. You could see yourself walking in on Aphrodite tomorrow as well as today, where as Venus might not be standing on her cockle shell in an hour let alone tomorrow. The nude female Goddesses in these two artistic masterpieces are the dominating images. In Praxiteles’ sculpture it is not easy to forget since it is practically just the rendered Aphrodite, which, can be seen from all angles. In Botticelli’s tempera on canvas which stands at 5’ 8” x 9’ 1”, Venus is centered in the middle of the canvas almost framed by the forms of Zephyrus and the woman he carries and one of the Horae or goddess of the seasons, who seems to be running to Venus in order to cover her indecency with a flowered drapery. In Aphrodite of Knidos we get a sensual and open feeling. The goddess is right before us in reach of our grasp, where as Venus is sensual and distant. In the Birth of Venus the goddess seems to be so sensual but quiet the opposite of Aphrodite in the fact that she seems to be just out of our reach. Not to mention the fact that Aphrodite stands alone for us and Venus seems to be drawing a crowd of others who have come to cater to her newly born flesh. Praxiteles and Botticelli are two of the greatest artists of their time. Their depictions of the Goddess of Love have many stylistic differences that set them far apart in different categories. In a closer analysis we are able to see that though they might be two very different medium they have much in common. The gestures, pathos, beauty and softness of the 5
  6. 6. Due: December 4, 2007 goddess’ figure give the audience the best appreciation for what are possibly two of the most controversial religious nudes in history. The forms are very similar and the poised emotional reactions and archaic smiles of the goddess give us a sense that these two pieces of art could possibly be related in someway. However, the delicate beauty and master craftsmanship set each piece on its own pedestal. Sources: Class notes on Aphrodite of Knidos Kevin Forman Art History through the 15th century (LA120) Gardner’s Art through the ages: the western perspective 6
  7. 7. Due: December 4, 2007 Fred S. Kleiner & Christin J. Mamiya ©2006 Thomson Wadsworth http://www.library.ucla.edu/arts/websites/wwwart.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_Venus_(Botticelli) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphrodite_of_Knidos http://www.thenagain.info/WebChron/WestCiv/Praxiteles.html http://library.academyart.edu/ http://0-www.groveart.com.library.academyart.edu:80/index.html?authstatuscode=202 7

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