The painting is large, but slightly smaller than the Primavera, and where that is a panel painting, this is on the cheaper support of canvas.Canvas was increasing in popularity, perhaps especially for secular paintings for country villas, which were decorated more simply, cheaply and cheerfully than those for city palazzi, being designed for pleasure more than ostentatious entertainment.Botticelli's art was never fully committed to naturalism; in comparison to his contemporary Domenico Ghirlandaio, Botticelli seldom gave weight and volume to his figures and rarely used a deep perspectival space.Botticelli never painted landscape backgrounds with great detail or realism, but this is especially the case here.At the left the wind god Zephyr blows at her, with the wind shown by lines radiating from his mouth.
It depicts the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, when she had emerged from the sea fully-grown (called Venus Anadyomene and often depicted in art).
The subject is not strictly the "Birth of Venus", a title only given the painting in the nineteenth century (though given as the subject by Vasari), but the next scene in her story, where she arrives on land, blown by the wind.
The land probably represents either Cythera or Cyprus, both Mediterranean islands regarded by the Greeks as territories of Venus.
Her whole body follows the curve of a Gothic ivory. Her pose is impossible: although she stands in a classical contrapposto stance, her weight is shifted too far over the left leg for the pose to be held.
It is entirely without that quality so much prized in classical art, known as aplomb; that is to say, the weight of the body is not distributed evenly either side of a central plumb line. The proportions and poses of the winds to the left do not quite make sense, and none of the figures cast shadows.