Fernando Botero - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • Painted in 2005, Fernando Botero’s Venus is a striking example of the artist’s tongue-in-cheek 
    reprisal of the art historical tradition of the female nude.  Demonstrating Condo’s penchant for exaggeration and distortion, Venus portrays a proud and voluminous nude figure standing in a pose that echoes Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, circa 1482, and is situated within a domestic setting reminiscent of Pierre Bonnard’s La Femme À La Commode, 1909.   With a knowing nod to the grand tradition of nude painting, Botero here puts forth a portrait that is characteristic of his singular style of “Boterismo,” a synthesis of politically charged Mexican muralism and Western classical influences, such as Italian Renaissance paintings and Baroque art. Venus  was notably among the paintings selected for the artist’s solo exhibition at the Nassau County Museum of Art in 2010.

    "For Botero, art history is a huge, almost infinite warehouse of images, which can be raided but never copied." —Rudy Chiappini 

    A striking example of Botero’s painterly practice, the present work clearly demonstrates the artist’s career-long fascination with the human figure. Specifically demonstrating Botero’s admiration for Botticelli, Venus articulates how the artist pursued a highly idiosyncratic approach to portraiture. “For Botero, art history is a huge, almost infinite warehouse of images, which can be raided but never copied”, Rudy Chiappini observed, “In fact, in his own way, he recreates it, giving life to images which demand their own independence. We are presented with real and true re-interpretations, in which the artists seeks to pay homage to famous paintings, albeit with a certain benevolent irony, attempting, at a distance of centuries, to recreate the spirit of the works, actualized and made real through his original idea of volumes and space, signs and colors.”i  


    Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1486. Uffizi, Florence, Digital Image © Scala / Art Resource, NY
    Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1486. Uffizi, Florence, Digital Image © Scala / Art Resource, NY

    Indeed, while Botero cites Boticelli’s Venus both in title and the figure’s contrapposto, he brilliantly re-imagines the figure in a modern-day context. Whereas the figure in Boticelli’s Venus modestly covers her nude body, here the female figure displays it with unabashed pride as she stares directly at the viewer–her arm raised up in a seductive gesture reminiscent of Pin Ups, while gentle folds of purple cloth wrap around her calves and a small cherub runs towards her feet. Botero firmly places the figure in an everyday context, as though caught in the moment of undressing in her home. A half-eaten apple sits atop a simple wooden dresser, brilliantly evoking the forbidden fruit that Eve famously ate. Known for his rigorous training in Classical art, Botero places the apple as a symbol of the original sin, but importantly departs from his predecessors by avoiding the moral consequences. 


    With Venus, Botero powerfully subverts the conventions of a genre that advocated classical ideals of nudity, situating the artist within a trajectory perhaps best encapsulated in Édouard Manet’s famed work Olympia, 1863, which depicted a visibly nude woman within a contemporary setting whose straightforward gaze confronted the viewer. As art critic Benjamin Genocchio highlights the work in his The New York Times exhibition review of Fernando Botero, mounted at the Nassau County Museum of Art, “...Mr. Botero’s figures fill the canvas, as if they were models on a billboard, looking indifferently out at the viewer.” ii 

    i Rudy Chiappini, “The Vision of the World in the Fullness of Form”,  Botero, Paintings 1959-2015, Turin, 2015, pp. 19-20
    ii Benjamin Genocchio, “Larger Than Life”, The New York Times, April 2, 2010, Section LI, p. 8


    • Provenance

      David Benrimon Fine Art, New York
      Opera Gallery, Hong Kong (acquired from the above in 2013)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Roslyn Harbor, Nassau County Museum of Art, Fernando Botero, March 13 – May 24, 2010

    • Literature

      Benjamin Genocchio, "Larger Than Life", The New York Times, April 4, 2010, p. 8

    • Artist Biography

      Fernando Botero

      Colombian • 1932

      Colombian artist Fernando Botero is known for his voluptuous and exaggerated paintings, sculptures and drawings. He studied under Roberto Longhi, a renowned authority on Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, obtaining a remarkable art historical knowledge of Western Classicism. This dialogue between an erudite education and religious art for the masses is the key in the development of his aesthetic.

      Botero was also influenced by Mexican muralism, with which he became acquainted while living in Mexico City. The monumental scale of the human forms in the murals gave rise to the voluminous figures for which he is best known. Botero's works make mordant comments on society's shortcomings; they also incorporate classical elements and are imbued with political satire and caricature.

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signed and dated "BOTERO 05" lower right
oil on canvas
66 3/4 x 50 in. (169.5 x 127 cm)
Painted in 2005.

Full Cataloguing

$350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $529,200

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261


20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York 8 December 2020