Vol. 6 in my Notes From Italy series.
So, yeah, we were in Florence, visited the Uffizi Gallery, a massive and profound feast of art, and we had the great pleasure to stand right in front of this masterpiece, Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus …
… and the very first thought that popped into my mind was:
Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs
Got to hurry on back to my hotel room
Where I’ve got me a date with Botticelli’s niece
She promised that she’d be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece
–Bob Dylan, When I Paint My Masterpiece, 1971
It didn’t matter that Dylan speaks of Rome and this Venus is in Florence, and it didn’t matter — if it wasn’t creepy enough to think of the artist painting nudes of his brother’s or sister’s daughter– that art historians have firmly ruled out that the image of Venus is that of his niece.
Given that Birth of Venus is such an iconic piece, it seems a very good possibility that Dylan was referring to the painting and having a little fun.
So, you might ask, what thoughts did I have about Birth of Venus once the Dylan wore off?
Well, it had nothing to do with how beautiful the painting is, or the mythological story it tells, or what a wonderful composition, with the winds blowing Venus to shore and her handmaiden waiting and ready to clothe her.
No, instead, I thought of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Terry Gilliam’s brilliant animation:
I know, I’m so highbrow!
Up Next: Notes From Italy, Vol. 7: How To Fake Speaking Italian