August 27, 2015 / 3:57 PM / 2 years ago

Botticelli painted modern beauties - in 1400s, show says

LONDON (Reuters) - An exhibition that portrays the 15th-century Italian painter Sandro Botticelli and his blonde Venuses as an inspiration for the modern Western ideal of female beauty will open this month in Berlin and in March in London, curators said on Thursday.

The show will feature some 150 paintings, including two more-than-life-sized Botticelli portraits of Venus.

It also will feature film clips the curators say were inspired by his works, including the famous scene from the James Bond film “Dr No” in which a white-bikini-clad Ursula Andress emerges from the sea clutching a conch shell.

“Botticelli in a way set the 20th-century ideal of beauty,” said Ana Debenedetti, curator of paintings at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is mounting the exhibition in conjunction with the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin. The show opens in Berlin on Sept 24 and moves to the V&A in March.

The joint exhibition will display some of Botticelli’s most famous paintings, including the two portraits of Venus, one from Berlin and the other from Turin, plus the V&A’s own, restored “Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli”.

It will not, however, have the two best known Botticelli works from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, his “Birth of Venus” in which the nude goddess is stepping out of a scallop shell and is said to be the inspiration for the Andress scene, and his “Primavera”, or Allegory of Spring.

They are deemed too fragile to travel, the curators said, although the Italian museum has lent another Botticelli canvas, “Pallas and the Centaur”.

The exhibition will trace how the slim, long-haired beauties Botticelli painted in Florence in the latter half of the 1400s had an impact on painters like Andy Warhol and Rene Magritte, fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Dolce&Gabbana, film makers, photographers and the dance world.

Mark Evans, senior curator of paintings at the V&A, said Botticelli had been out of fashion for about 250 years after his death, but was rediscovered in the 19th century and became a major influence when “Birth of Venus” was exhibited at the New York World’s Fair in 1940.

“She (Venus) becomes the definitive, ideal woman walking down the catwalk, with this kind of dancing attitude,” Evans said.

The V&A, which has had huge hits in the recent past with an exhibition devoted to pop star David Bowie and another on fashion designer Alexander McQueen, described “Botticelli Reimagined” as its major show of the spring season.

Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Jan Lopatka

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