submitted by George Poulos on 10.06.2004
Although I have never fully understood why; this is my favourite picture of the Kytherian goddess Aphrodite.
It depicts the moment of her birth, after the genitals of Ouranos have fallen into the sea. See the "Birth of Cytherea" entry, by Alexandra Ermolaeff, in this section, for a more detailed explanation of the myth.
Alexandre Cabanel was born in Mont Pellier, France, in 1823. He studied painting under Picot and was the winner of the Prix de Rome in 1845.
"The Birth of Venus was the hit of the controversial Salon of 1863. While crowds were dismayed by Manet's Olympia with her direct gaze and unacceptable standards of modelling and composition, Cabanel's Venus has all the refined eroticism that was expected by Salon-goers of the time.
She is idealised and devoid of any blemish or body hair. She is sexually passive, characterless, and more perfect than is possible. Surrounded by masses of luxuriant hair, she is the ultimate male fantasy, voluptuous yet chaste, as well as accommodating. Her form, a brilliant performance of draughtsmanship and careful, systematic modelling, is the nineteenth century's version of ancient and Renaissance styles."
The painting was subsequently bought by emperor Napoleon III.
Ranking with Bourgeaureau as one of the most successful and influential academic painters of his time, his historical paintings and portraits of women of the French aristocracy won him numerous commissions from Napoleon III, and an appointment as instructor at Ecole des Arts Decoratifs.
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