Review: Botticelli Reimagined With Hermaphrodites At The V&A

Botticelli Reimagined, V&A ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 23 months ago
Review: Botticelli Reimagined With Hermaphrodites At The V&A Botticelli Reimagined, V&A 4
An Asian Venus by Yin Xin, inspired by the original. Courtesy Duhamel Fine Art, Paris

A nude redhead standing on top of a clam emerges from the sea: it's an image so embedded in pop culture, it's familiar to those who've never even seen the original Birth of Venus by Botticelli.

Botticelli Reimagined opens by demonstrating just how influential this painting is; as Ursula Andress emerges from the sea in Dr No, it's clear this scene is inspired by the Birth of Venus. We'd just never realized until now.

A whole host of parallels are drawn in this massive exhibition. They range from the Pre-Raphaelites through to a Lady Gaga album cover by Jeff Koons. There's even a coin, clothing and an alloy wheel design inspired by Botticelli's work.

The Renaissance painter's Venus is often viewed as the ideal female beauty, but subsequent artists have challenged this perception, notably with the hermaphrodite version on display here.

All this whetted our appetite for the real thing, and the last third of this exhibition doesn't disappoint.

There are plenty of paintings by Botticelli himself and by his workshop. Including some beautiful paintings of Venus and the Madonna, although not the actual Birth of Venus, which is in the Uffizi in Florence (this, along with Dave la Chapelle's gaudy adaptation is the only downside).

We're shown just how arresting Botticelli's imagery is, and how often it's referenced within our culture — both within the art world and outside it.

Just be warned: after this you'll be spotting Botticelli references everywhere.

Botticelli Reimagined is on at V&A from 5 March-3 July. Tickets are £15 for adults, concessions available. Also on at V&A is a display of contemporary portraiture and the newly refurbished European and Japanese galleries.

For more Botticelli, be sure to check out the excellent exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery.

There are some genuine Botticelli's on display too. © Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
One of the genuine Botticellis on display. © Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
The Pre-Raphaelites, such as Rossetti, clearly owe a debt to Botticelli. © Guildhall Art Gallery
The Pre-Raphaelites owe a debt to Botticelli. © Guildhall Art Gallery
Dave LaChapelle's reimagining of the Birth of Venus is best avoided, (c) David LaChapelle
Dave LaChapelle's reimagining of the Birth of Venus is not to everyone's taste. © David LaChapelle
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The fashion world was also inspired by the Renaissance master. In this instance it's Dolce & Gabbana. Courtesy catwalking.com

Last Updated 04 March 2016