Plato – and so for the members of the Florentine Platonic Academy – Venus had two aspects: she was an earthly goddess who aroused humans to physical love or she was a heavenly goddess who inspired intellectual love in them. Plato further argued that contemplation of physical beauty allowed the mind to better understand spiritual beauty. So, looking at Venus, the most beautiful of goddesses, might at first raise a physical response in viewers which then lifted their minds towards the Creator. A Neoplatonic reading of Botticelli's Birth of Venus suggests that 15th-century viewers would have looked at the painting and felt their minds lifted to the realm of divine love.
"Love is understood when all seems beautiful.
Love is beautiful when all seems understood.
Love is, yet, something never understood, it is just continually reborn.
Love is fresh and forever.
I only can have that for the innocent... yet,
I only can have that for all.
When I see the world it is not full of those who fall.
When I see the world it is as though we all just met.
For me, Venus is born each moment. I love. So deeply.
For me, time means little, for each moment feels so much. One is an eternity of senses.
I feel... therefore, I love. I see... therefore, I love. I taste... therefore, I love. I hear... therefore, I love. I touch... therefore, I love.
This is all I know."
Painting above by Alexandre Cabanel
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