Arts Illustrated

April 13, 2020

Veni, Vedi, Vici Venus

At least Hannah Gadsby certainly did – the veni-vedi-vici bit – with the episode on ‘The Birth of Venus’, the first in her three-part series on art history, on her YouTube channel ‘Renaissance Woman’ that gloriously demystifies the stuffy pages of art history with her unique brand of humour!

Vani Sriranganayaki

The four, very important things I learnt watching comedian Hannah Gadsby’s short art history lesson on Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus are:

  1. The story of Venus’ birth.
  2. A new metaphor for female genitals that should be brought back in use!
  3. Renaissance art’s love-hate relationship with nudity.
  4. Botticelli’s ingenious solution to depicting wind.

Quick background for those not familiar with Hannah Gadsby (to them I strongly suggest watching her 2018 Netflix special Nanette): Hannah Gadsby is an Australian comedian, writer, actress and television presenter, whose comedy career skyrocketed when in 2018 she announced that she was quitting comedy. Contradictory, yes. But if you watched any of her works, you would know that Gadsby thrives very well on contradiction – or rather, she sets it up perfectly for us to find the humour in it.

Coming back to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus – Gadsby is also an art history graduate and in her sets, she likes to knock the discipline off its rather elitist pedestal (once again, go watch her Netflix special. There she takes on van Gogh and Picasso; and the much-debated question of separating the art and artist). A few years ago, she wrote and presented a three-part series on her YouTube channel ‘Renaissance Woman’, where she broke down some of the most famed paintings in Medieval and Renaissance art history. First on the docket, and what we take on for in this story, was Botticelli’s famous work that depicted the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, when she had emerged from the sea fully-grown – an icon of Italian Renaissance.

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