Unlike his contemporary, Raphael, who was known for his more accurate way of painting the human body, Botticelli's work takes considerable artistic license. If you look closely, you'll immediately notice that the length of the Venus' neck has been dramatically exaggerated. Moreover, her left arm (your right) looks like it's practically falling off! This is perhaps one of the major reasons that Botticelli's work was nearly forgotten after his death.
It's hard to imagine that there was ever a time when this painting was practically unknown. But it was nearly forgotten in the wake of Botticelli's death and Raphael's popularity (along with Leonardo and Michelangelo). As time went on, art critics ignored Botticelli's work, which was regarded as inferior and unrealistic. He was "rediscovered" in the 19th century by--surprise, surprise--the Pre-Raphaelites.
Botticelli's anatomically imaginative work made him the enemy of the art establishment, who thought he was merely careless. But these same perceived shortcomings endeared Botticelli to the Pre-Raphaelites in general, and Sir Edward Coley Burne Jones in particular (Levey, 299), who was impressed by the way Botticelli masterfully blended the pagan and Christian traditions within his artwork. Burne-Jones spoke often about his love for Botticelli, and his enthusiasm seems to have been contagious. William Michael Rossetti purchased one of Botticelli's drawings in 1867 (which later turned out to be a fake, but, oh well. At least he had been turned on to the artist). By the beginning of the 20th century, Botticelli's popularity had risen to such meteoric levels that "between 1900 and 1920, more books were published on Botticelli were printed than any other great painter"(291). This was due in a large part due to the enthusiasm of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Tomorrow: Ruskin and Botticelli
Source Consulted: Michael Levey. "Botticelli and Nineteenth-Century England." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 23, No. 3/4 (Jul. - Dec., 1960), pp. 291-306.
(This is a GREAT article that I recommend to anyone who can get their hands on it! It's available through JSTOR, for those of you who have subscriptions).