A couple days ago I went to the Uffizi Gallery with my Figure Drawing class in order to spend a couple hours drawing hands, feet, and faces from the paintings in the gallery. The point is that sometimes it’s easier to first learn how to draw a 2-dimensional drawing from other 2-dimensional objects rather than draw a 2-dimensional drawing from a 3-dimensional human being standing in front of you.
Anyway, throughout my wandering through the Uffizi, I stumbled upon Botticelli’s Spring and The Birth of Venus.
This was a big moment for me. I’ve been seeing these pieces all my life in art classes, books…everywhere! I distinctly remember looking at that blue guy (Zephyr) when I was about eight years old and being really freaked out. He’s a scary dude. Seeing these for the first time is comparable to…actually, I’m not sure what it’s comparable to. It’s not even really comparable to seeing a famous city for the first time, because that city is the sum of all it’s years of growth and decay, while a work of art was simply created, and has since been slowly decaying. It was created by one person (usually) with great care and devotion. That alone is enough to make works of art worthwhile, but once you see something like “The Birth of Venus” in person, there is another whole layer there. In a print it’s impossible to see the brushstrokes and detail that Botticelli applied to his works. You can’t see the flakes of pigment that have come off and the preparatory colors underneath. It’s incredible. And it’s all right here in Florence.
(Also, a brief foray into actually looking at them: can you tell they’re both by the same artist? Look at the way the women are shaped and distorted, and the way the people relate to the background. They don’t exactly float on top of it, but they aren’t interacting with it much either.)