Botticelli’s Venus was born in Portovenere

Simonetta Cattaneo was born in Portovenere in 1453, precisely in Fezzano, on the Gulf of Poets riviera, and she was beautiful

She was not just beautiful but thought to be the most beautiful woman of the Renaissance. She was so stunning to become immortal, thanks to Sandro Botticelli’s portrait of her in two of the most important Renaissance paintings: The Birth of Venus and The Spring.

La Nascita di Venere, Sandro Botticelli: nel quadro è raffigurata Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci nei panni della dea. Il dipinto venne concluso nove anni dopo la morte di Simonetta.
The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli: depicts Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci as the goddess


The beautiful Simonetta was born in the village of Fezzano , near Portovenere. Her parents were two Genoese aristocrats forced into exile in their residence on the banks of the Gulf of La Spezia (ed. according to some she was actually born in Genoa and then moved to the Gulf of Poets at a very young age along with her parents) .

The beautiful Simonetta was born in the village of Fezzano, near Portovenere. Her parents were two exiled Genoese aristocrats on the Gulf of La Spezia banks. According to some, she was born in Genoa and moved with her parents at a very young age. 

Among the titled family relationships, there was also the Vespucci family. One of them – Marco Vespucci, a distant cousin of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci – fell in love with Simonetta, who was sixteen then. So in 1469, the two of them got married.

It was an essential step for the Cattaneo family because the Vespuccis were Florentine bankers firmly tied to the powerful Medici family. The Medicis ruled Florence, which is how the incredible story of the “living Venus” began.

La Primavera, Sandro Botticelli: con i capelli e le vesti adornate di fiori, la Primavera è impersonata da Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, ritenuta la donna più bella del Rinascimento.
Spring, Sandro Botticcelli


When Simonetta moved to Florence, her beauty did not go unnoticed. The Tuscan city, at that time, was the center of the world and was home to a wealth of cultural and artistic ideas.

This is how a beautiful girl, thanks to her well-connected husband, became the muse of many artists. She was painted by Piero di Cosimo, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, and Filippo Lippi and sung by poets such as Poliziano and Pulci.

Even Lorenzo il Magnifico, the undisputed ruler of Florence, dedicated some verses to her, and his brother – Giuliano De Medici – fell madly in love with her. Then Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci became Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Spring in his two best-known works.


The incredible beauty of Simonetta earned her immortality. Many of the paintings that depict her were painted after her sudden death. She died of a brutal illness on April 27, 1476, when she was only 23. 

A huge crowd attended the funeral, marching in front of the open coffin so everyone could admire the magnificence of the most beautiful woman human eyes had ever seen. 

Sandro Botticelli painted his most popular canvas, the Birth of Venus, nine years after this date. And the magnificent Renaissance Florence remained in love for decades with” La Bella Simonetta,” as she was called in the city. Part of the woman’s appeal also depended on the mad passion of Giuliano de Medici, brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

His love pushed him to participate in and win a chivalrous tournament in the Florence square of Santa Croce in 1475, as told by Poliziano in his poem for the contest. The prize was to get his hands on Simonetta’s portrait signed by Botticelli. Under the picture was shown the inscription “La Sans Pareille – The unequaled. ”  

Posthumous portrait of Elisabetta Cattaneo Vespucci, Sandro Botticcelli

Botticelli, forever next to his Venus

Not weaker was the transport that tied Botticelli to his muse. Looking closely at the works of the Renaissance painter, you will recognize Simonetta’s traits in many other artworks.

The woman’s beauty deeply impressed the artist, so he asked to be close to her for eternity. In his will, a special request is to be buried at the foot of Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, his Venus. The woman’s family agreed, allowing the remains of the great artist to be buried in their private Vespucci chapel in the church of All Saints.

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