While observing the painting today, I noticed something interesting. I noticed some features of Venus that tie in with a theory I have that Venus is Ardhanarishvara; the combined form of the masculine and feminine, the prime being.
If you view the painting here and compare Venus to Ardhanarishvara here; you may notice that the right side of Venus is distinctly masculine and the left side is distinctly feminine (with respect to direction, imagine Venus’ left and right, not yours!). Venus covers her right breast because it is flat like a man’s chest whereas the left breast is fully formed. Her waist is fuller on the right and narrow on the left. The genitals are always covered. Not always for modesty it seems as, according to Hindu belief, the genitals must be covered because the prime being has both.
Now, how did Botticelli come to know about Hindu philosophy? During the Renaissance, Constantinople fell and Italy was inundated with scholars fleeing the East. They brought with them new knowledge. The Renaissance was a time when the mixing of ideas and philosophy from different cultures happened. (Encyclopedia Britannica- ‘Renaissance’) This is another point that supports Venus as the Ardhanarishvara.
Although Botticelli meant for the painting to be viewed through Christian/Catholic eyes, the idea of Divine Love, in the Christian sense, doesn’t fit the Birth of Venus. Venus represents divine love as told through eastern philosophy, where perfection and balance is only achieved when masculine and feminine energies become one. It is not the love bestowed by God. They suggest the universe was created in this way; through order, beauty and balance.
Is the prime being. It’s the union of opposites. Suggesting that one cannot exist without the other. One half upholds science and logic (masculine) while the other half, Shakti (strength, feminine), upholds art, music and language, it is the base upon which everything stands. Shells, especially the conch, is always held by the feminine and is used, through the power of its sound, to banish negative energy.