In a recent ArtBlog posted by The Guardian, Jonathan Jones ponders Botticelli's enduring masterpiece, The Birth of Venus, painted in 1484, and tries to discover if it is the ancient religion that makes it so compelling.
The magic somehow lies in the relationship between the smooth paleness of Venus and the sea's green. Even though Botticelli paints a sea of deep calm, the little wavelets are necessary because they recede from the eye, so making us see the water as a plane reaching back towards the depths of the canvas, across which Venus approaches. She comes forward, on the edge of the onlooker's reality. The picture glories in the sense of uncanny movement, of Venus gliding out of the distance, as pink flowers float down, their slow descent implying that around Venus the air itself has warmed and stilled – as Lucretius has it, "the sky is calmed".