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Art / The Birth of Venus (Bouguereau)

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The Birth of Venus (French: La Naissance de Vénus) is one of the most famous paintings by 19th-century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It depicts not the actual birth of Venus from the sea, but her transportation in a shell as a fully mature woman from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus. She is considered the epitome of the Classical Greek and Roman ideal of the female form and beauty, on par with Venus de Milo.

The painting was created for the Paris Salon of 1879. It was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome, and was purchased by the state for the Musée du Luxembourg. The painting is now in the permanent collection of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Not to be confused with the Botticelli and Cabanel paintings of the same name.


The Birth of Venus provides examples of:

  • Angelic Beauty: Venus is a beautiful woman as usual, but she is given an unusual air of purity and divinity thanks to being surrounded by a choir of angels at her birth.
  • The Burlesque of Venus: The subject matter, with Venus standing in a Contrapposto Pose, greatly resembles its more famous predecessor.
  • Cherubic Choir: Fifteen putti, including Cupid and Psyche, have been counted in the foreground and the background of the painting.
  • Contrapposto Pose: Venus takes a relaxed version of the pose.
  • Love Goddess: The painting's central figure is the Roman goddess of love. The painting makes this evident by showing the fauns and centaurs around her in sheer shock and adoration at the sight of such a beautiful woman.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Three different centaurs surround Venus accompanying the nymphs, two of them playing conch-shells.
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  • Our Nymphs Are Different: Three nymphs are found accompanying the centaurs.
  • Putto: Strangely, little baby cupid and a host of other child-like angels appear despite the painting depicting the birth of their mother, Venus.
  • Water Is Womanly: Like its famous predecessor, the painting depicts the goddess of love emerging from the sea alongside sea nymphs.