Concealed lung anatomy in Botticelli’s masterpieces the primavera and the birth of venus

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Davide Lazzeri


Botticelli, lung, concealed anatomy, Renaissance


Sandro Botticelli was one of the most esteemed painters and draughtsmen among Renaissance artists. Under the patronage of the De’ Medici family, he was active in Florence during the flourishing of the Renaissance trend towards the reclamation of lost medical and anatomical knowledge of ancient times through the dissection of corpses. Combining the typical attributes of the elegant courtly style with hallmarks derived from the investigation and analysis of classical templates, he left us immortal masterpieces, the excellence of which incomprehensibly waned and was rediscovered only in the 1890s. Few know that it has already been reported that Botticelli concealed the image of a pair of lungs in his masterpiece, The Primavera. The present investigation provides evidence that Botticelli embedded anatomic imagery of the lung in another of his major paintings, namely, The Birth of Venus. Both canvases were most probably influenced and enlightened by the neoplatonic philosophy of the humanist teachings in the De’ Medici’s circle, and they represent an allegorical celebration of the cycle of life originally generated by the Divine Wind or Breath. This paper supports the theory that because of the anatomical knowledge to which he was exposed, Botticelli aimed to enhance the iconographical meaning of both the masterpieces by concealing images of the lung anatomy within them. 


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