"These are idealizations of a figure," Botero has explained of the voluptuous female bodies that have acquired near-eponymous status in his sculpture of the past thirty years.
What I am concerned with is form--creating smooth, rounded surfaces that emphasize the sensuality of my work. . . Sculpture is like a caress. You touch the form, you can give the forms the softness, the sensuality you want. It's magnificent.(1)
Botero's female nudes embody the lush sensuality of the eternal feminine, exalting life through their exuberant physicality and prodigiously rounded proportions. "Botero's aim is nothing short of perfect roundness," Clare Henry has remarked, "a form that hints at the ideal--a pure sphere that refines mortal imperfections into immortal spiritual glory."(2)
In Reclining Venus, Botero lovingly embraces the fleshiness of the female body, amplifying her proportions to underscore the suggestive pleasures of voluptuous form. The ancient Roman goddess of beauty, fertility, and love, Venus has long been a favored muse of artists, and in Botero's hands her classical beauty is given tantalizingly erotic power: she reclines in a state of near rapturous bliss, all but oblivious to her surroundings and in sultry exaltation of her physical body. An archetype for both romantic love and sexual desire, Venus is a quintessential expression of womankind, her figure at once universal and yet also, for Botero, deeply ingrained in his Colombian roots. The Peruvian writer and intellectual Mario Vargas Llosa has explained:
When Botero was a child, there was a firmly rooted tradition in Latin America which associated abundance with beauty. It was nurtured by a panoply of erotic mythology, in newspapers and obscene jokes in the bars, in the fashion world, popular literature and above all in Mexican films. The exuberant forms of the actresses who danced and sang in figure-hugging gowns which made their breasts heave and buttocks bulge with a clever vulgarity were the delight of our generation, awakening our first pangs of desire. They probably remained trapped in the subconscious of the boy from Medellín.(3)
This larger-than-life-sized Reclining Venus, her curves alluringly on display, perfectly embodies the ideals of sensual volume and calm monumentality emblematic of Botero's mature work. Her arms open, perhaps to receive the embrace of a lover, and her body seductively turned upward, she exemplifies both the classical grace of earlier Renaissance precedents and the enticing charms of the buxom actresses who may have captivated the imagination of the young Botero some sixty years ago. A universal figure, her physical presence is exaggerated by the fulsome contours and generous proportions of her body. Botero embellishes her dimensions to a point of voluminosity beyond all anatomical possibility to make a critical point; as he explains:
Every artist distorts or deforms nature. Nobody truly copies reality as we see it Realism is not the same thing as reality. The purpose of my style is to exalt volumesbecause it conveys the sensuality, the exuberance, the profusions of the form that I am searching for.(4)
1) F. Botero, quoted in C. Henry, "New York: Botero, Marlborough," Sculpture 21, no. 3 (April 2002), 73.
2) Henry, "New York: Botero, Marlborough," 73.
3) M. V. Llosa, quoted in J-C. Lambert, Botero Sculptures, Bogota, Villegas Editores, 1998, n.p.
4) Botero, quoted in C. Fuentes, "Introduction," Botero: Women, New York, Rizzoli, 2003, 218.