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Birth of Venus

Andy WARHOL Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, 1984 Screenprint on Arches Aquarelle (Cold Pressed) paper Edition of 70

 ‘When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums’

- Andy Warhol

Warhol’s Details of Renaissance Paintings series is steeped in art history, despite its startlingly modern aesthetic.

In Sandro Botticelli: Birth of Venus Warhol transforms Venus into a Hollywood starlet. Just as he did for Hollywood’s Marilyn Monroe, Warhol created four different versions of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, bestowing this same celebrity status on Venus.

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is one of the most visited artworks at Florence’s Uffizi and Warhol unabashedly commandeered this work for his series. He was not afraid to appropriate Botticelli’s masterwork, indeed he was just as comfortable with stealing from popular culture as he was from one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance. He cropped and coloured Botticelli’s scene, stamping it with his own iconic Pop Art style.

He renders Venus a contemporary icon once again, highlighting her timeless beauty through the contrasting tones of her flaming red hair and blue accents. Botticelli’s Renaissance painting is then redefined: Venus is no longer a classical deity, but a modern American idol.

Perhaps his appropriation of Renaissance iconography can be seen as a nod to the masters who came before him? Or is it a critique of the mass consumption of artistic masterworks?

The series was made in 1984, just three years before Warhol’s death. He immortalised both contemporary and Renaissance muses following two decades of enduring experimentation with screen printing.

As always, Andy Warhol here explored the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that was flourishing in the later 20th century.

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