Few would find it difficult to recall Botticelli’s infamous Birth of Venus. There aren’t many works of art that are instantly recognisable to the masses, but this painting is one of the only exceptions. The renaissance masterpiece that celebrates the goddess of love has achieved cult status world over and has now even managed to land it’s own exhibition at one of London’s most celebrated museums without the original painting even being on display.
Botticelli Reimagined tracks the influence of the 1484 from the present day right back to the renaissance age that it was drawn out of. Divided into three sections, the show opens with a video clip from Dr Bond followed by another starring Uma Thurman as Venus in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The first exhibition space is completely black and spacious. Along the walls are photographs by David LaChapelle and Lady Gaga album covers. Behind a corner is a Japanese take, which takes the form of a video game, complete with Hello Kitty. There is also another Asian influence in the form of Yin Xin’s Chinese Venus with black hair and almond eyes. This first installment also features items from fashion history in the form of a Dolce & Gabbanna suit and two stunning Elsa Schiaparelli dresses.
The next room is a little lighter in atmosphere. The black walls turn to greys and pastel shades. They reflect perfectly the Victorian images on display and the soft carpet beneath the viewer’s feet. This middle gallery is poignant as it was the Victorians who ‘discovered’ Botticelli, who had become forgotten in history. This room is covered in pre-Raphaelite languid and ethereal beauty. On show here is artwork from such names as William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. However, it is their female counterpart, Evelyn de Morgan, who really shines here. Her women are breathtaking and honestly, the highlight of the whole exhibition.
The exhibition concludes in fifteenth-century Florence. We may not be able to see Botticelli’s iconic work here in London, but the V&A have got as close to the Italian experience as possible. Here we see paintings from Botticelli’s workshop as well as two original paintings by the master himself.
The V & A exhibition covers all bases from the past through to the present. The show succeeds in showing that Botticelli’s legacy has lived on and has had an influence on all forms of pop culture, from music, art and fashion. I have no doubt that the Florentine master’s name will continue to be remembered for centuries to come.
Botticelli Reimagined is on display at Victoria & Albert museum until 3 July