Together with paintings by Botticelli himself, these disparate works throw an illuminating light on the Renaissance artist’s talent and the inspiration others have drawn from his work, sight of which can too easily be lost in the global ubiquity of reproductions of his pieces.
Mark Evans, head of painting at the V&A, said: “The poet TS Eliot pointed out that whenever a new work of art is created it impacts on how we perceive all previous works of art, and it is for that reason that we start with contemporary art and then back to the 19th century and Botticelli’s rediscovery and finally Botticelli’s own work.”
Botticelli was the painter of the Medici, the rulers of Florence, and in the 15th century he became one of the most famous artists of his own day. But his works faded into obscurity, and his reputation only escaped this shadow hundreds of years later.
“Today he is a superstar, like Leonardo da Vinci. He was rediscovered in the 19th century, almost 200 years ago, principally in this country by the Pre-Raphaelites; Dante Gabriel Rossetti owned a painting by Botticelli, which is in the show,” Evans said.
Ana Debenedetti, curator of paintings at the V&A said the aim of the show was to “peel off the many layers of reinvention of Botticelli and show the source of inspiration at the beginning”.
“We have a wide range of works from fashion, photography, paintings, videos which show you now how Botticelli is now widespread in the contemporary art world,” said Debenedetti.
Modern works on display include clothing from Dolce & Gabbana’s spring show from 1993 which reference images taken from “The Birth of Venus” and evening dresses by Elsa Schiaperelli from 1938, as well as Andy Warhol’s “Details of Renaissance Paintings” from 1984.
There are also film references inspired by Botticelli’s work — from “Dr No” the first James Bond movie in 1962, to Terry Gilliam’s 1988 film “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.”
However, the exhibition was unable to obtain Botticelli’s two most famous paintings “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus” from their home in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Debenedetti explained: “‘The Birth of Venus’ and ‘Primavera’ cannot travel — they are too large and too fragile, they will never leave the Uffizi.” Enditem