Botticelli's Venus is first Renaissance artwork to be shown publicly in city

Something old, something nude

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 12:59am

One of Italy's national treasures - Venus by Florentine Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli - will be on display at University of Hong Kong's Museum and Art Gallery from Friday until December 15.

"We are very excited about the show," says museum director Florian Knothe. "This is the first time this painting has been shown in Hong Kong - and I believe it's the first time an original Renaissance painting has been shown [in public] here."

The show is part of the museum and gallery's 60th anniversary celebrations. And Knothe says security at HKU has been tightened for the two-month run. "With regards to climate conditions, Venus will be displayed in her own case," Knothe says.

Venus (circa 1482) is among Botticelli's masterpieces from a series of paintings of the Roman goddess - others include The Birth of Venus and Mars and Venus - and one of the most treasured works of the Renaissance.

The painting is usually housed in the Galleria Sabauda in Turin, Italy, and depicts the nude goddess as a symbol of love, beauty, fertility and prosperity.

Little is known about the artist, who was born in the mid-1440s.

He apprenticed as a goldsmith before working with the acclaimed master painter Filippo Lippi. He was also patronised by noble families, including the Medicis.

By his 40s, Botticelli was at the height of his powers and was helping decorate the Sistine Chapel. He died in 1510.

"This magnificent painting allows the public to appreciate first-hand Italy's rich cultural roots," says Alessandra Schiavo, Consul General of Italy in Hong Kong and Macau.

The show is a collaboration between the Italian consulate, the Italian Cultural Institute, and the museum.

Businesswoman Pansy Ho Chiu-king, patron of the exhibition, says the show will help strengthen the city's image on the global art scene.

"This not only gives the Hong Kong audience a chance to appreciate the magnificent Italian artistic culture, but also cements the city as a venue where influential European art is appreciated, interpreted and studied," Ho says.

To coincide with the show, the museum has organised an outreach programme for the public, collectors, scholars and students. Lectures, workshops and seminars will be held at the museum. Classes, in collaboration with two Italian scholars from HKU's fine as department, will also be held.

In January this year, a painting by Botticelli - Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist - sold for US$10.4 million to an anonymous bidder at Christie's in New York, setting a record for the artist at auction and capping off a world tour for the work that began late last year, including a private showing in Hong Kong in November. Sandro Botticelli's Venus , Oct 18-Dec 15, HKU Museum and Art Gallery, 90 Bonham Rd, Pok Fu Lam, free, tel: 2241 5500