Throwback Thursday: Botticelli

We went to Florence a couple of months ago to visit the Uffizi Gallery.

It wasn’t my first time in Florence. My friend Laila and I did a Grand Tour of Italy after we graduated. I had the best night I’d ever had in my life there with Laila, three impossibly good-looking Spaniards, one Costa Rican and Pampero.

It was such a good night out that I missed our scheduled trip to the gallery the next morning and spent it instead pleading 'Dove.. dove è il asprin?' and then sitting on the pavement of a dark side street, praying.

This time round I was older, sober, wishing to be wiser and in the company of my other half.

Here I am with my Uffizi Gallery gift shop swag: a Birth of Venus tree bauble and a notepad. 

Here I am with my Uffizi Gallery gift shop swag: a Birth of Venus tree bauble and a notepad. 

We asked a Florentine art historian to take us round the gallery showing us her favourite pieces. It was much better than wandering around the vast site unaccompanied. 

I particularly liked Botticelli. There's always so much to see in his work. Even when you think you know what's going on, there are still little things to decode like the fact that women regarded as beautiful have their second toe longer than their big toe. His use of gold in devotional paintings is a nice reminder that he started his career as a goldsmith. 

When I got back to London, I read more about Botticelli and came across this fresco, Venus and the Three Graces Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman.

It was painted in the 1480s. It shows a young woman receiving gifts from Venus and the Three Graces: Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia. 

Painted for the Villa Lemmi, a property just outside Florence that belonged to the noble Tornabuoni family, allies (and later family relations) of the Medici.

The Louvre believes that this work could have been commissioned to mark the marriage of Nanna di Niccolò Tornabuoni and that her likeness is reflected in the woman on the right.  

To be honest, I find it pretty hard to figure out who is giving the gift and who is receiving it but this sort of reinforces Seneca's idea that gift-giving is systemic and the act comprises three parts: those who give gifts, those who receive gifts and those who return gifts.

Botticelli's fresco captures the spirit of gift-giving. The actual gift is incidental, we don't know what the gift is and we don't spend too much time wondering. It is the act of giving, the gesture, which dominates the work. 

Fun Fact: The V&A is holding an exhibition, 'Botticelli Reimagined' from March to July.