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Main page / "Knowledge. Understanding. Skill" Journal / Contents / 2014 / No. 4

Portnova T. V. Plastic Intonation in the Imagery of Botticellis The Birth of Venus and Primavera

(Moscow University for the Humanities)

Abstract ♦ Intense public attention to the artistic heritage of the early Italian Renaissance calls for more in-depth exploration of individual works by masters who have made a significant contribution to the development of the world's artistic culture. The article analyzes two masterpieces of the Florentine painting school of the early Renaissance: Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and “La Primavera”(Spring), both now in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery (Florence).

A number of fundamental works by Russian and foreign researchers have addressed the issue of how Botticelli’s paintings reflected mythological imagery. The language of paintings, their artistic style, genre features and images have been studied in detail. But the plasticity of its imagery, as well as the painter’s original talent as stylizer and director, has so far evaded researchers’ attention. This article presents the first study of plastique in Botticelli’s visual language, outlining the artistic features that shaped his principles of style. In the context of our study, it is important to note how the painter interprets two topics similar in intonation through directing the characters’ plastique and defining the role and place of the plastic arts in the imagery of his works.

By providing a parallel analysis of two paintings, we have revealed a number of indirect links between them and the art of dance, which Botticelli probably knew through samples of ancient Greek and Roman art. The article looks at the nature of plastic intonations in his imagery, at how the painter "directed" the composition, and at the metaphoric meaning behind some of his plots. We provide an in-depth analysis of the iconography of Botticelli’s characters in the context of myth.

Stylistic analysis helped us trace the imagery- and structure-related changes in Botticelli’s treatment of selected themes throughout a period of time. The method of synchronous comparison of the two paintings allowed us to pinpoint a difference stemming from various developments within the same genre. The notions which have the same origin but different forms of actualization are capable of deep interpenetration and preserve some of their similarity.

We can conclude that the analysis of the two paintings has clearly revealed the main stylistic characteristics and the full degree of uniqueness of Botticelli’s artistic manner, and helped us trace several important sources of influence and the patterns of their perception by the artist. A deep analysis of the two paintings allowed us to generalize on the notion of the plastique, which advances both theoretical study and understanding of Botticelli’s artistic heritage. The painter’s style is thus viewed as a category that best summarizes his distinctive visualization of his theme.

Keywords: Italian Renaissance, Sandro Botticelli, plastic category, stylistic principles, choreographic associations, imagery, iconography, compositional drama, semantics of a painting.

Portnova Tatiana Vasilievna, Doctor of Art Studies, Professor, Department of Culture and Arts, Moscow University for the Humanities; Professor, GASQUE Institute of Dance; Corresponding Member, International Academy of Culture and Arts; Full Member, Peter the Great’s Academy for Sciences and Arts; Full Member, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. Postal address: 5 Yunosti St., Moscow, Russian Federation, 111395. Tel.: +7 (499) 374-59-40. E-mail:


Citation: Portnova, T. V. (2014) Plasticheskaia intonatsiia v obraznom stroe kartin «Rozhdenie Venery» i «Vesna» S. Bottichelli [Plastic Intonation in the Imagery of Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera”]. Znanie. Ponimanie. Umenie, no. 4, pp. 283–290. (In Russ.).

Submission date: 30.08.2014.



Vlasov, V. G. (1995) Stili v iskusstve [Styles in Art] : dictionary in 3 vols. St. Petersburg, Kolna CJSC Publ. Vol. 2. 544 p. (In Russ.).

Danilova, I. (1975) Ot srednikh vekov k Vozrozhdeniiu [From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance]. Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik Publ. 197 p. (In Russ.).

Duncan, I. and Shneider, L. (1994) Tanets budushchego. Moia zhizn'. Vstrechi s Eseninym [The Dance of the Future. My Life. Encounters with Esenin]. Rostov-on-Don, Feniks Publ. 448 p. (In Russ.).

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