Botticelli’s Venus was born in Portovenere

Born in Portovenere, Simonetta Cattaneo was married to one of the Vespucci Family members, and shook the hearts of Renaissance’s Florence, ending up in one of the most famous paintings of history.

La Nascita di Venere, Sandro Botticelli: nel quadro è raffigurata Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci nei panni della dea. Il dipinto venne concluso nove anni dopo la morte di Simonetta.
The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli: depicts Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci as the goddess
Not everyone knows it, but the Venus by Botticelli was from La Spezia : her name was Simonetta. Simonetta Cattaneo was born in Portovenere in 1453, more precisely in the hamlet of Fezzano on the Gulf of Poets riviera, and she was beautiful. She was not just beautiful, but thought to be the most beautiful woman of the Renaissance . So beautiful to become immortal, thanks to her portait by Sandro Botticelli in two of the most important of Renaissance paintings: The Birth of Venus and Spring .

The Living Venus was born in the port of Venus, Portovenere

The beautiful Simonetta was born in the village of Fezzano , near Portovenere. Her parents were two Genoese aristocrats forced into exile in their residence on the banks of the Gulf of La Spezia (ed. according to some she was actually born in Genoa and then moved to the Gulf of Poets at a very young age along with her parents) . Among the important family’s relationships was also the Vespucci family. One of them – Marco Vespucci , a distant cousin of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci – fell in love with the Simonetta, then aged sixteen. In 1469 the two of them got married. It was an important step for the Cattaneo family, because the Vespuccis was a family of Florentine bankers, firmly tied to the powerful Medici, who ruled Florence, and this is how the incredible story of the “ living Venus”  started.

The world fell in love for the Venus from La Spezia

When Simonetta moved to Florence, her beauty did not go unnoticed. The Tuscan city, at that time, was the center of the world and was home to a wealth of cultural and artistic ideas.

This is how a beautiful girl, thanks to her well-connected husband, ended up becoming the muse of a large number of artists: she was painted by Piero di Cosimo, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, Filippo Lippi and sung by poets such as Poliziano and Pulci. Even Lorenzo il Magnifico , the undisputed ruler of Florence, dedicated some verses and his brother – Giuliano De Medici – fell madly in love with her. So Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci became Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Spring , in his two best known works.
La Primavera, Sandro Botticelli: con i capelli e le vesti adornate di fiori, la Primavera è impersonata da Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, ritenuta la donna più bella del Rinascimento.
Spring, Sandro Botticcelli


The “unequaled”: Giuliano de Medici, madly in love with Simonetta
The incredible beauty of Simonetta earned her the immortality. Many of the paintings that depict her, in fact, were painted after her sudden death for a merciless illness on April 27, 1476 when she was only 23 years old (ed. Botticelli painted his most popular canvas the Birth of Venus nine years after this date ). A huge crowd attended the funeral, marching in front of the open coffin so that everyone could admire the beauty of the most beautiful woman human eyes had ever seen.On the other hand, the magnificent Renaissance Florence remained in love for decades of ” La bella Simonetta” , as she was called in the city. Part of the woman’s appeal certainly depended also on the mad passion that was by  Giuliano de Medici, brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent. His love pushed him to take part (ed. and win ) – as told by Poliziano in his poem for the tournament – to a chivalrous tournament that took place in the square of Santa Croce in 1475 just to get his hands on Simonetta’s portrait signed by Botticelli. Under the picture was shown the inscription “La Sans Pareille – The unequaled “.
Posthumous portrait of Elisabetta Cattaneo Vespucci, Sandro Botticcelli

Botticelli, forever next to his Venus

Not weaker was the transport that tied Botticelli to his muse: closely watching the works of the Renaissance painter, you will recognize Simonetta’s traits.
The artist certainly was deeply impressed by the beauty of the woman, to the point that he asked to be close to her for eternity. Among the will of Botticelli, in fact, he found a special request: to be buried at the foot of Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, his Venus. The Vespucci family agreed, allowing the remains of the great artist to be buried in their private chapel in the church of All Saints.

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  • Ron May 4th, 2020

    “The Beauty comes, and had I tongues of fire,
    So many songs did Beauty e’er inspire,
    Who sees her, of his wits is dispossessed,
    And who possessed her was too highly blessed…”

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