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The Burlesque of Venus

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"Aphrodite is beloved in pop culture more as a symbol or as an idea more than a character that does things. Two of the most famous pieces of art in European history are of the goddess Venus: Venus de Milo, thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch, and Botticelli's The Birth Of Venus which gets homaged in everything from Lady Gaga videos to The Muppets to Andy Warhol..."

Sandro Botticelli's 1486 Tempera painting The Birth of Venus has become a Florentine Renaissance icon that has withstood the test of time and is arguably his most famous piece.

While not The Mona Lisa, the Roman Goddess of Love can be considered a top-tier contender for the title of "Mona Lisa of Florence", Venus on her shell is nearly as iconic as Mona and her smile (Small Reference Pools at work again). Because of this, imitations abound, and not just in the fine art world. People in Film, Comic Books, anime, manga, Video Games and Western Animation like to take the imagery of The Birth of Venus and create a parody - or rather "a burlesque" - of the famous painting. Characteristics include:

  • A stunningly beautiful naked womannote  in (something like) a Contrapposto Pose, her nudity often covered by her hair or her hands.
  • Two people to the left, often either flying or levitating.
  • One person to the right, often bringing her clothes.
  • A giant scallop shellnote  for her to stand on.

The reasons for this vary, ranging from being actual depictions of Venus (or her Greek counterpart Aphrodite), to illustrating the inherent beauty of a specific character, or maybe the creators wanted the viewer to think they were smart and cultured and picked something everyone would recognize.

See also Art Subjects and other cases of Art Imitates Art like Pietà Plagiarism and Sistine Steal.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo: In one episode, Don Patch and Jiggy Jiggler posed as this trope in order to "think of a way" to beat Torpedo girl. Needless to say, it didn't go well.
  • The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior: In the second episode, Usa and Ritsu are sent to take down drapes and chance upon Shirosaki posed like this painting due to the wind, with cloth standing in for the clam and covering his chest and crotch and Mayumi clutching another large cloth next to him.
  • In Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, the girls despair over not being able to catch a photo of Sakamoto when they went to the beach. They look through the photos, only to find one with Megumi holding a sea-shell — and Sakamoto in the back, posing like the Birth of Venus, seaweed standing in for hair and feet perfectly positioned to look like he's standing on the shell.
  • A promotional poster for Fate/Zero features Waver posing like Venus... and clearly embarrassed about it.
  • The 17th episode of the PaRappa the Rapper anime has a Birth of Venus homage where Katy Kat is posing like Venus while wearing a wedding dress she designed and standing in the palm of a giant fake hand.
  • The 18th episode of PJ Berri No Mogu Mogu Munya Munya features a faceless statue resembling The Birth of Venus.
  • Volume 3 of Wild Act has a gag where a naked Yuniko imitates The Birth of Venus after Ryu catches her in the nude.
  • Kōji Yamamura's segment in Winter Days features a young woman standing in the classic "Venus" pose surrounded by angels.

  • The Birth of Venus (Bouguereau): While the position is way more relaxed, Venus is still standing on a (smaller) seashell in a Contrapposto Pose and has minor deities surrounding her —although, in this case, it's Psyche and unidentified putti, nymphs, and centaurs. Moreover, they aren't blowing her to the shore but worshipping her.
  • The Birth of Venus (Cabanel): Subverted. While the painting shares the same name and subject matter as the more famous Botticelli painting, the painting borrows more from Giorgione's Sleeping Venus in terms of composition.
  • Renaissance of Heather by Jonathan Thorpe is a photograph of Heather Byrd — then suffering from her third relapse of leukemia — being dressed by medical personnel in a deliberate homage to The Birth of Venus.
  • Andy Warhol made a portfolio of four, multicolored screenprints of Venus' head straight from the original Renaissance painting called, you guessed it, Birth of Venus.
  • Camouflage Botticelli (Birth of Venus) by Alain Jacquet is made as a collage of modern images (the Shell-station icon, road signs, etc.) assembled into the form of Venus.
  • In the Muppets reprint book Miss Piggy's Treasury of Art Masterpieces from the Kermitage Collection, there is a recreation of The Birth of Venus called The Birth of You Know Who, with Miss Piggy playing the role of Venus, Kermit as Hora of Spring and Statler and Waldorf as Zephyr and his companion.
  • Birth of Venus Parody by jakethebake15 portrays the original painting in a more modern context, with a slacker male playing Venus.
  • The Birth of Squidward by Ukrainian artist Elena Emelyanova portraying Squidward Tentacles as Venus.
  • There have been a number of (often NSFW) fanarts depicting the birth of Sailor Venus.
  • This piece of Simpsons fanart combines The Birth Of Venus with the famous "Steamed Hams" skit.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This trope has been present from the beginning of the motion picture industry. The 1901 short film The Birth of the Pearl features an unnamed long-haired young model wearing a flesh-colored body stocking in a direct frontal pose in this style.
  • Another very early first instance of this trope happens in the lost 1916 film A Daughter of the Gods. By the way, this movie also showed what is regarded as the first complete nude scene by a major star (Annette Kellerman).
  • Venus is introduced in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen emerging from a giant clam pulled out from the pond in her home in Vulcan's volcano, where she is quickly dressed by her ladies-in-waiting.
  • In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West (played by Miss Piggy) keeps her own version of Botticelli's painting hanging in her lair, with herself posing as Venus and one of her flying monkeys in place of Zephyr and his assistant.
  • In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, technician Appolonia once descends from heaven as Venus (complete with clam shell) to Fingal inside the simulation and intones the advice, "Thou shalt not screw around with things thou dost not understand." This is given no explanation whatever in the film. (In the original short story, it was because she could only control the simulation by causing strange phenomena.)
  • Dr. No: Both fans and critics have likened Honey Rider's emergence from the sea in a white bikini to Botticelli's Venus.

  • Dr. No. James Bond on first seeing Honeychile Rider standing naked on the beach a few feet away, holding a sea shell she's collected, is specifically reminded of this trope.
    The whole scene, the empty beach, the green and blue sea, the naked girl with the strands of fair hair, reminded Bond of something. He searched his mind. Yes, she was Botticelli's Venus, seen from behind.
  • Venus On A Half Shell by Philip José Farmer pays homage to the painting with the title (and the cover art of the Dell paperback, which featured a scantily clad woman posed like Venus standing on an oyster IN SPACE!). When Simon first meets Chworktap, he compares her to Venus in the painting.
  • A sculpture of Venus in this pose provides a clue in the third Rivers of London novel. Peter Grant, the snarky protagonist, describes it as "the Venus Aphrodite Surprised By A Sculptor And Struggling To Cover Her Tits With One Hand While Keeping Her Drape At Waist Level With The Other so beloved of artists in the long weary days before the invention of internet porn".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Aphrodite from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess would often appear in a giant clam, and because it was The '90s, she would use a pair of ropes as a harness and surf with it to fit her Valley Girl personality.
  • In an animation in Monty Python's Flying Circus, the original painting is shown, but then a giant disembodied hand appears and clicks on Venus's nipple like a radio knob. This makes her turn on like an electric toy and does a silly dance.
  • The Octopus on The Masked Singer Australia appears in front of a giant clam shell at the start of her only performance of Irene Cara's "Fame", surrounded by several fish-girls.
  • In Ugly Betty, one of Matt's paintings is of Betty as the Birth of Venus. It isn't seen in detail, though.

  • Lady Gaga briefly spoofs the eponymous Renaissance painting during her music video "Applause", where she plays Venus, wearing a bra, thong and earrings made of seashells and a pair of animated hands surrounding her.
  • In the music video of Bananarama's cover of "Venus", alongside the sequences of a she-devil, a French woman, a vampire, and several goddesses, comes an homage of Botticelli's Venus surrounded by dancers.
  • A dancer appears as Venus in the music video for "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot.
  • A model posing as Venus, along with portions of the original painting, can briefly be seen a couple times in Spinal Tap's video for Bitch School.
  • Shows up in Destripando La Historia's video Afrodita.

    Print Media 
  • The May 25, 1992 and August 4, 2014 covers to The New Yorker feature spoofs of The Birth of Venus. The former depicts her using a hairdryer while in a bathrobe and the latter depicts several beach-goers photographing her with their smart phones.
  • Elle MacPherson appeared this way, with Godiva Hair, on the cover of a May 2000 issue of Who Magazine, though it wasn't meant as a parody.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia adventure Send in the Clones. The cover is a picture of Teela-O-MLY wearing a swimsuit and standing on a shell. Two of her clones (both wearing standard Troubleshooter uniforms) are coming in from each side, one being carried by a winged jackobot and the other carrying a spare uniform and throwing a towel to cover Teela #1.

    Video Games 
  • One of the various paintings Dimitri in his introductory cutscene in Sly 2: Band of Thieves forges is an in-universe equivalent of The Birth of Venus.
  • When Aphrodite appears in God of War III, she is spread out upon her bed, being "serviced" by her hand-maidens, her bed designed to look superficially like a giant clam.
  • Hazelnut Hex has a nude witch flying on a clam while striking Venus' pose as a mid-boss in the second stage, where her clam can spam projectile attacks at you. Upon defeat, her clam explodes and the witch falls while striking the same pose all the way down.
  • In Persona 4: Golden, Kanji poses as Venus with seaweed provided by Yosuke when he lost his swimsuit in the beach to cover himself. The girls are not amused.
  • In The Sims 3, a Birth of Venus pastiche is one of the possible artworks a high level painter randomly draws when instructed to created a large size painting. The female character wears a seashell bikini.
  • In the Glider PRO CD house "Art Museum," Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" is one of the featured paintings. Here the half-shell conceals hidden toasters.
  • In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Wendy O. Koopa reveals herself by coming out of a clam shell and posing in a similar manner to Venus.
    • A similar thing happens in Paper Mario: The Origami King, where cooking a clam shell found in the Great Sea causes a Toad to emerge in this pose... before screaming due to the heat of the campfire.
  • In the Makenro's (the tennis player) stage of Makeruna Makendo 2 (the fighting game sequel to Kendo Rage), there's a painting of Makenro mimicking Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" in the background (starts at 16:16).
  • World of Warcraft features the quest reward Gokk'lok's Shell, which makes the player character wear a swimsuit and dance in a large clamshell for up to 2 minutes.
  • In Ai Cho Aniki, one boss is a muscular man posed like this, complete with long blonde hair, nudity, and giant clam he stands on.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Steven Universe/Uncle Grandpa Crossover episode "Say Uncle", Uncle Grandpa appears dressed like Rose Quartz in a giant, pink clam, surrounded by seagulls and dolphins added for fan-fare.
  • In the Hercules episode "Hercules and the Dream Date", Aphrodite (Venus's Greek incarnation) appears to a bramble of flowers miraculously appearing, a beaming light, her rather cheesy introduction song topped off with, wait for it, stepping out of a giant clam that floated in.
  • In the The Simpsons episode "The Last Temptation of Homer", Homer briefly fantasizes Mindy Simmons as this, clamshell and all, with Carl and Lenny as a pair of cherubs accompanying her.
    Cherub Lenny: Hey Homer, what's the matter?
    Cherub Carl: Ain't you never seen a naked chick riding a clam before?
  • In the Futurama episode "A Bicyclops Built for Two", Alcazar gives Leela a tour of Cyclops City. One of the works of art he shows her is a mosaic depicting their Goddess of Beauty, depicted exactly like Venus in the famous Botticelli painting (except that she has purple hair and is a cyclops). It then revealed that there are five other identical cities on Cyclopia, each with minor differences that helps Alcazar sell the illusion to the women he seduces, one of which having a depiction of Venus with five-eyes.
    • In the very beginning of the episode of "Love and Rocket", Bender criticizes the ship's A.I.'s conservative opinions towards nudity by asking if he would censor the Venus de Venus, a painting depicting a Horrible Gelatinous Blob as Venus in a similar pose as from the Florencian painting, while being named after the sculpture Venus de Milo. The ship does not care much for it.
  • Ugly Americans: After the succubus Callie finishes molting, she is posed similarly to this painting, with her standing over her former "skin", her hand covering her breasts and genitalia, her hair blowing in the wind, two people on her left, and Mark on her right rushing to throw a cloth over her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Cutie Pox", Apple Bloom catches a disease that makes her spontaneously develop new talents, but also compels her to perform those new skills immediately. When she develops a talent for sculpting, she carves a statue of a pony, in a scallop shell, posing like Venus. The pose is particularly silly in this case because there's nothing to cover on her chest anyway, and ponies don't normally wear clothes, either.
  • The Gravedale High episode "Goodbye, Gravedale" has a sub-plot where Mr. Schneider's class is tasked with making a film. One scene J.P. Ghastly III shoots after he declares himself director has Blanche posing similarly to Venus in the painting while wearing a bikini and standing in a giant clam.
  • One of the ABC commercial bumpers that Bump in the Night was derived from depicted Mr. Bumpy painting a portrait of Molly Coddle while she was standing on an oyster shell and posing similarly to Venus.
  • Teacher's Pet:
    • The title sequence includes a brief scene where Spot is standing inside a clam shell and posing like Venus while wearing his Scott disguise.
    • "A Dog for All Seasons" features another instance of Spot posing in a clam shell like Venus during the song "Season of Love". Unlike the instance in the title sequence, this one has Spot posing as an ordinary dog without his disguise.
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "Finding Emo" has a scene where Timmy shows on his phone several pictures of his love interest Missy in pastiches of famous paintings, one of them being based on The Birth of Venus.
  • Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Special features a naked mole rat version of The Birth of Venus among the paintings shown in the song "Scandal".


Venus' introduction

Venus appears akin to the painting.

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