The Victoria and Albert Museum present a major new exhibition which explores the variety of ways artists and designers from the Pre-Raphaelites to the present have responded to the artistic legacy of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), assembling 150 works from around the world. Although, Botticelli is now recognised as one of the greatest artists, the exhibition reminds us that he was largely forgotten for more than 300 years until his work was ‘rediscovered’ in the 19th century.
Botticelli Reimagined is the largest Botticelli exhibition in Britain since 1930 and includes painting, fashion, film, drawing, photography, tapestry, sculpture and print. There are over 50 original works by Botticelli, alongside works by artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, René Magritte, Elsa Schiaparelli, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.
The exhibition begins with a screen showing excerpts from Dr No showing Ursula Andress emerging from the sea clasping a conch shell and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which Uma Thurman re-enacts The Birth of Venus.
The first main section entitled Global, Modern, Contemporary illustrates how artists have taken aspects of Botticelli’s imagery and incorporated them into their own works. Botticelli’s most famous work , The Birth of Venus which depicts the naked Venus emerging from a shell on the seashore is referenced by Andy Warhol’s Details of Renaissance , Yin Xin’s Venus After Botticelli , David LaChapelle’s Rebirth of Venus and a dress and trouser suit of patchwork panels from The Birth of Venus from Dolce & Gabbana’s 1993 collection. Botticelli’s influence is more widely considered by Bill Viola’s Going forth by Day and 5th surgery performance – Operation opera by ORLAN, This section also includes work by Tamara de Lempicka, Robert Rauschenberg, René Magritte and Maurice Denis.
Rediscovery considers the impact of Botticelli’s art on the Pre-Raphaelite circle during the mid-19th century. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin and Edward Burne-Jones all owned and were greatly influenced by Botticelli’s work. In this section a series of portraits by Burne – Jones and Rossetti, mostly featuring Jane Morris gives some insight into the way that the Pre-Raphaelites looked to the past for inspiration.
Botticelli’s celebrated work, Primavera influences William Morris’ The Orchard and Evelyn De Morgan’s Flora. In this room are a couple of copies of The Birth of Venus by Edgar Degas and Gustave Moreau as well as Etienne Azambre’s Two Women copying Botticelli’s fresco of Venus and the Graces.
Moving back in time, the final section of the exhibition arrives at Botticelli in his Own Time. A series of works by Botticelli show that he was not only a wonderfully skilled artist but also ran a highly successful workshop which produced a large number of important works. Exhibits include his only signed and dated painting The Mystic Nativity , three portraits supposedly of the legendary beauty Simonetta Vespucci, and the remarkable Pallas and the Centaur, travelling to London for the first time.
A small number of portraits of the elite of Renaissance Florence gives some context to the artist’s life and times before the show closes with two full-length paintings of Venus, reprising the heroine of The Birth of Venus, and the V&A’s Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli which formerly owned by Rossetti.
It is remarkable how some artists can produce work that remains influential over the centuries, This exhibition provides plenty of evidence that Botticelli is one of these artists. Whether it is through his influence on the Pre-Raphaelites or the way the iconic works such as the Birth of Venus has been endlessly reinterpreted in the late 20th especially. Although there is a running theme through the exhibition, in many ways it feels like three mini exhibitions in one. Due to the variety on display, the exhibition will have quite a wide appeal, each section has its own attractions and delights in an ambitious and interesting show.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
5 March – 3 July 2016.
Admission £15 (concessions available).
V&A Members go free.
Advance booking is advised
For more information or to book tickets, visit the V&A website here
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