fbpx
Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Painting of the Week: La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli, La Primavera, late 1470s-early 1480s, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week: La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

La Primavera, which means ‘Spring’ in Italian, is without a doubt the most famous painting of Sandro Botticelli. Its mysterious allure continues to dazzle audiences and baffle art historians to this day. However, the painting was originally commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, probably on the occasion of his marriage.

Who were the Medici

Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder, 1474-5, Uffizi, Florence, Italy
Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder, 1474-5, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

Florence in the late 15th century was a great Italian arts center and had a booming economy as well. The Medici, a family of bankers, ruled the city. Their bank was the most powerful one in Europe, even having amongst the clientele the pope himself. They rose to power in 1434 with Cosimo and, with some ups and downs, stayed until 1737. Cosimo worked to bring peace to Northern Italy and consequently brought stability and great influence for his family over the city.

Nevertheless, both the family and the city reached their apogee during Lorenzo the Magnificent’s rule, Cosimo’s grandson.

Along with the Vatican, Lorenzo was one of the main patrons of the arts during the Renaissance. He commissioned work by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and of course Sandro Botticelli.

La Primavera

Sandro Botticelli, La Primavera, late 1470s-early 1480s, Uffizi, Florence, Italy
Sandro Botticelli, La Primavera, late 1470s-early 1480s, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

In La Primavera, the action takes place in a lush garden. Venus stands in the center, above her Cupid is ready to release one of his arrows. To her right, first we see Mercury, the guardian of the garden, sending away the dark clouds from the area. His sword, in a prominent position, enhances that role. Next him, the three Graces dance in a circle.

To the left of Venus, however, lies the most mysterious part of the painting. At the edge of the canvas, there is a young man with blue skin. He is Zephyr, the western wind chasing the nymph Chloris. Next to the nymph, another female figure scatters rose petals all over the garden. She is Flora, the personification of Spring. How are all these figures connected?

The answer probably lies in literature. In Ovid’s Fasti, an epic poem in six volumes, the poet explains the origins of the months of the Roman calendar. In the part devoted to May, we learn that Chloris was attacked by Zephyr. Later, he regretted his actions and turned Chloris into Flora and gave her a garden where there would always be Spring. An element on the canvas that supports this theory is, for example, the fact that the two women do not seem to acknowledge each other. Additionally, the flowers that come out of Chloris’s mouth land on Flora’s dress. On that part of the painting there are 500 different species of plants, carefully and realistically rendered. 190 of them are flowers.

Neoplatonism

The two groups on the left and right of Venus come together through the ideas of Neoplatonism, a philosophical theory, popular at the time in Florence and the close circle of the Medici court. Neoplatonism connects Plato’s philosophy with Christian morals. The theory advocates that there are two kinds of love: carnal desire, represented in the painting by Zephyr, and the pure desire to connect with god, represented by the Graces.  

Sandro Botticelli gave us a masterpiece for the ages. A painting about love in all its forms but also the promise that Spring will always come, no matter how hard the Winter is.  


Learn more about La Primavera and Sandro Botticelli:

Art Historian, she graduated from the Department of History and Archeology of the University of Athens and has a Masters degree in Art History from the University of Sussex. She is a member of the Association of Greek Art Historians.

She has worked in the National Gallery of Art in Athens and in the 4th Athens Biennale AGORA (2013). She has taught Art History in the Municipal Art School of Aghia Paraskevi and in the digital university Iversity (Berlin). She was the assistant curator of the exhibition Inferno of George Pol. Ioannidis in the Italian Institute of Culture in Athens (2017-2018), where she presented the painter’s work in a lecture at the Institute. Her articles have been published in Ta Nea tis Technis and avopolis.gr. Recently, one of her short stories was among the winners in the 2nd short story competition of Ianos bookstore and was published.

Comments

More in Painting of the Week

  • 19th Century

    Painting of the Week: Claude Raguet Hirst, A Gentleman’s Table

    By

    A Gentleman’s Table by Claude Raguet Hirst is a mysterious painting that echoes the realism of Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, and Henry Ossawa Tanner. It explores both the dignity and the immorality of ordinary life. It depicts the human experience of the late 19th century United...

  • dailyart

    Painting of the Week: Giorgione, The Tempest

    By

    Giorgione and his masterpiece The Tempest form the rare combination of a mysterious artist and a mysterious painting. This small canvas has puzzled art historians since the 16th century and continues to do so. Who Was Giorgione? Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco (1477/78-1510) is considered the co-founder...

  • dailyart

    Painting of the Week: Hasegawa Tōhaku, Pine Trees

    By

    Japan is a country of distinctive traditional arts such as tea ceremonies, calligraphy, and bonsai. A rich history of artists fills their museums with breathless wonders. Pine Trees by Hasegawa Tōhaku is one such national treasure. It is a wonderfully complex painting despite its simplistic first...

  • Ancient Egypt

    Painting of the Week: Judgement Scene from Book of the Dead of Hunefer

    By

    Death continues to be one of the greatest fears of human society. Since the dawn of recorded history through the centuries of plague, pestilence, and meeting our own modern global pandemic, death has always been a worry. It marks the end of life and forces cosmic...

  • 19th Century

    Painting of the Week: A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

    By

    A Bar at the Folies-Bergère is considered Edouard Manet’s last major painting. Presented in the Salon of 1882, just a year before the artist’s death, its theme as well as the execution unsettled the prudish Parisian society. Manet and the Parisian Salon Manet’s relationship with the...

To Top