Through The Birth of Venus, the 2003 novel by Sarah Dunant, I got the chance to view the Renaissance from a whole different perspective, that of a young would-be female artist, Alessandra Cecchi. The powerful Medicis, the fanatic Savonarola, and the bonfire of the vanities are no longer just distant historical names. I experienced their effect on the culture of the time.
Botticelli's Venus remained hidden from Allesandra and most of the world, to avoid destruction, but I now have a greater appreciation of what the art and artists of the times survived. Given the suppression of women in those days, depicted so effectively in the novel, it's also clear why there are no female Renaissance artists that are household names today.
When I have a chance to go to Florence some day, my visit will be all the richer for having read this novel.
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