POP on the half shell

Paul Noth in the March 5th New Yorker:


A POP (phrasal overlap portanteau): home birth + Birth of Venus, with the two expressions combined linguistically, and also conceptually in Noth’s drawing.

From NOAD:

noun home birth: an instance of giving birth at home, rather than in a hospital: when Lisa got pregnant they decided to have a home birth.

And then there’s Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting, briefly discussed on this blog in the 3/17/16 posting “Morning name: Botticelli, the game”. Widely parodied, and sometimes referred to jocularly as “Venus on the Half Shell”:


Bonus: Primavera. From Wikipedia:


Primavera (“Spring”), is a large panel painting in tempera paint by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli made in the late 1470s or early 1480s (datings vary). It has been described as “one of the most written about, and most controversial paintings in the world”, and also “one of the most popular paintings in Western art”.

The painting depicts a group of figures from classical mythology in a garden, but no story has been found that brings this particular group together. Most critics agree that the painting is an allegory based on the lush growth of Spring, but accounts of any precise meaning vary, though many involve the Renaissance Neoplatonism which then fascinated intellectual circles in Florence. The subject was first described as Primavera by the art historian Giorgio Vasari who saw it at Villa Castello, just outside Florence, by 1550.

Although the two are now known not to be a pair, the painting is inevitably discussed with Botticelli’s other very large mythological painting, The Birth of Venus, also in the Uffizi. They are among the most famous paintings in the world, and icons of the Italian Renaissance; of the two, the Birth is even better known than the Primavera. As depictions of subjects from classical mythology on a very large scale they were virtually unprecedented in Western art since classical antiquity. It used to be thought that they were both commissioned by the same member of the Medici family, but this is now uncertain.

… The painting features six female figures and two male, along with a cupid, in an orange grove. The movement of the composition is from right to left, so following that direction the standard identification of the figures is: at far right “Zephyrus, the biting wind of March, kidnaps and possesses the nymph Chloris, whom he later marries and transforms into a deity; she becomes the goddess of Spring, eternal bearer of life, and is scattering roses on the ground.” Chloris the nymph overlaps Flora, the goddess she transforms into.

In the centre (but not exactly so) and somewhat set back from the other figures stands Venus, a red-draped woman in blue. Like the flower-gatherer, she returns the viewer’s gaze. The trees behind her form a broken arch to draw the eye. In the air above her a blindfolded Cupid aims his bow to the left. On the left of the painting the Three Graces, a group of three females also in diaphanous white, join hands in a dance. At the extreme left Mercury, clothed in red with a sword and a helmet, raises his caduceus or wooden rod towards some wispy gray clouds.

The interactions between the figures are enigmatic. Zephyrus and Chloris are looking at each other. Flora and Venus look out at the viewer, the Cupid is blindfolded, and Mercury has turned his back on the others, and looks up at the clouds. The central Grace looks towards him, while the other two seem to look at each other. Flora’s smile was very unusual in painting at this date.

The pastoral scenery is elaborate. There are 500 identified plant species depicted in the painting, with about 190 different flowers, of which at least 130 can be specifically identified. The overall appearance, and size, of the painting is similar to that of the millefleur (“thousand flower”) Flemish tapestries that were popular decorations for palaces at the time.

2 Responses to “POP on the half shell”

  1. davemalaphor Says:

    Never knew about POPS. Saw this in a post the other day: WTFWJD? Is that a POP? I was going to post it as a malaphor on my website http://www.malaphors.com davemalaphor

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