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1879; canvas, oil; 300 × 218; Orsay Museum.
As the plot for his painting, William Bouguereau chose the famous myth of the appearance of the goddess of love and beauty of Venus, which, according to legend, arose from the coast of Cyprus from sea foam. The composition of the scene is quite similar to the famous masterpiece of Sandro Botticelli, a genius of the Renaissance, but in both paintings the author’s hand is clearly visible, you can notice traces of the time in which the work was done.
The Bouguereau painting is light, airy, made in bright colors, almost luminous delicate colors. Despite the many sensual frank images, it leaves an impression of artless naturalness, ancient simplicity.
The center of the composition is rightfully Venus itself, dwelling on the shore standing on a huge sea shell. Her pose is elegant, a little flirty, full of dignity. She is well aware of the power of her spell, but here she looks like a woman who has barely awakened from a dream. She is absorbed in herself and does not pay attention to those who welcome her. The cunning gaze from under the eyelashes of the goddess directs the viewer.
Her arrival is proclaimed by sea men blowing shells. Dark-haired and dark-skinned, these three figures are very different from all the other characters in the picture. They surround their goddess, not daring to approach her, but in their hands they have no less beautiful white-skinned women. The poses of all participants unambiguously hint at a carnal union.
The exception is two children in the foreground. At the feet of Venus, they play with the dolphin behind their tiny wings. These are angels who have broken away from the host of their brothers, circling in the heavens above the head of a pagan deity. Or maybe a flock of cupids, because in their hands the angels squeeze a bow, quiver and arrows that can kindle the flame of passion in a person’s heart.
Golden Autumn Polenov