The Beauty of Love: Finding Inspiration in Botticelli's Venus

Beauty Look Inspired by Botticelli's Venus Rory Mara The Attic on Eighth 2.JPG

As a makeup and beauty lover, one of my favourite hobbies consists of trying to recreate looks I love, not just from runaways or from celebrities, but from paintings and historical eras. When the film The Favourite came out, I had the most amazing fun trying to come up with a look that was inspired by the not-so-heroic heroines of the films and knew I wanted to do more similarly inspired projects. Therefore, as I was enjoying a weekend in Florence, I came across a painting that I have always loved from afar, and that immediately became my beauty inspiration for the summer. 

Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” is one of the most famous masterpieces from Italy’s early Renaissance. The model featured in the painting is Simonetta Vespucci, beloved by the artist, emblematic early modern beauty: her blonde hair and soft curves made her the perfect Venus as well as the personification of Spring and even as the Virgin with child in other paintings. There is a strength in the seemingly subdued tone of Venus’s pastels; the light greens and blues dominate the landscape, interrupted only by the form of Venus herself, and by the floral pink cape that will cover her. 

Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” (1483-1485).

Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” (1483-1485).

To say that I am utterly in love with this painting would be a great understatement. Right after my visit to the Galleria degli Uffizi, where the painting is situated, I sat down at a nearby café to make sense of all my emotions (not less important, I might have also been overwhelmed by the sheer power of Caravaggio’s Head of Medusa, but that’s another story…). I ended up writing a poem, because I couldn’t see any other way to make sense of all my thoughts and emotions. Here it is, for your consideration:

I see the rose,
Those pastel blues
And moving greens,
Of Sky and Sea.
The lulling Whites
Of foam and clouds.

I see a smile
That stares at me,
Gentle curves,
And wavy hair
Of molten gold.

I see behind the blues,
A shade away from violent hues.
The truest nature of
The Dismembered Daughter,
The child of Time,
And the force that drove her.

I see the way she moves, 
And with nimble fingers
Shape her will,
And shape all men
Like puppets
Or dolls.

I see a smile 
That hates, at me,
As I stay unloved,
But moved
By the waves of her coming.

Omnia Vincit Amor,
That is True.
Sed Quondam Vinco Ego.

Venus on seashell, falling into the sea, from the Casa della Venere in conchiglia,  Pompeii . Before AD 79.

Venus on seashell, falling into the sea, from the Casa della Venere in conchiglia, Pompeii. Before AD 79.

There is a power behind the myth of Aphrodite (and consequently, of Venus, her Latin personification) that I feel has always been overlooked. For starters, the Goddess of Love can actually be considered a Titan. There are many versions of the myth, of course, but in Hesiod’s Theogony, she is born from the severed genitals of Uranus (Zeus’s grandaddy), falling into the sea – and this what Botticelli’s paintings show. This would then mean that Aphrodite precedes the Olympian gods, making her a much more primordial force. 

I have always liked that, to think that Love is a forming force that comes before any other phenomenon – or rather, that this supernatural entity maintains her powers while the other titans are overthrown and replaced. I feel like this resilience and power is often neglected, leading to representations of Venus and Love as an almost secondary deity compared to the more showy Olympians. 

Beauty Look Inspired by Botticelli's Venus Rory Mara The Attic on Eighth 3.JPG
I have always liked that, to think that Love is a forming force that comes before any other phenomenon

It is this perfect balance that intrigues me the most and that, I think, makes Botticelli’s Venus the best depiction there is. As a ‘currently-blonde’ woman, I could not resist trying to adapt her look into something fresh and summer-y. This has given me the opportunity to use a sparkly pink eyeshadow all over my lids - soft but with enough colour in it to have a certain oomph. No eyeliner for me, just a lot of mascara to make my eyes pop. A cream blush, to keep things glowy, and a lot of highlighter for that otherworldly lightness. I wanted my lips to be pink but of a stronger hue, so that it can still be very on-trend and monochromatic as well as having a certain dimension. I know Venus’ eyebrows are very delicately blonde, but that is something I am really not capable of doing. In the end, I like their contrast with the softer tones of my makeup and how they frame my face. 

I feel this is going to be my go-to look of the summer and hopefully it will help me channel all that Venus represents, in her strength, love, and freedom.

Beauty Inspired by Botticelli's Venus Rory Mara The Attic on Eighth 1.JPG
Look Inspired by Botticelli's Venus Rory Mara The Attic on Eighth 4.JPG




Rory Mara is Beauty Editor at The Attic of Eighth. She loves the ballet, books, beheadings, and alliteration.