Heart. Spring. Beauty. Sublime. Intrigue. Discourse. Discord… all embody my favourite painting La Primavera (Allegory of Spring) by Sandro Botticelli. In my opinion this is his MOST stunning work of art- some would attribute that to The Birth of Venus, but I beg to differ. Don’t get me wrong, Venus is stunning, and I love it too, but Primavera is above and beyond sublime. And I got to see it in Florence, ticked it off my bucket list.
Pictures don’t do it justice, nothing ever will. There are several mythological figures in the painting, all standing in an orange grove- Venus the Goddess of Love is centre stage draped in orange, next to Venus is Flora Goddess of Spring and Flowers who also happens to be the most striking figure in the painting, she is dress in a flowing floral gown, head of flower crown throwing down flowers- it is said that there about 190 flowers in the painting and about 500 different species of plants. Next to Flora is the Nymph Chloris who is being chased by Zephyrus god of the west wind who was infatuated by her. It has been said that Chloris transforms into Flora, symbolising the beginning of spring depicted by the flowers coming from her mouth which is a part of Flora’s dress. The Three Graces who symbolise virtues of Chastity, Beauty and Love appear on the other side of Venus dancing and celebrating spring, Mercury, messenger of the gods is clearing out the clouds and making way for spring oblivious to the look from one of the Graces who is somewhat taken by him. Above them is a a floating Amor, son of Venus, blindfolded and pointing his arrow, at The Grace looking at Mercury, let love strike where it may.
Thematically speaking it is widely accepted that the the painting represents the dawn of new life, spring, love, fertility etc. Its the theories that gets the discourse going.
Botticelli himself did not christen then painting La Primavera, it was so named by Giorgio Vasari some seventy years later. This is one of the most dissected and complex paintings that causes a constant debate among experts- they cannot agree on the inspiration, the origin or the year it was painted- between 1477 and 1482. One theory suggests it was inspired by the fifth book in Ovid’s Fasti which talks about the courtship of Zephyrus and Chloris whom he was reported to have taken as a wife without her consent and then to make up for this he made her the goddess of Spring, transforming her into Flora, flowering her garden, filling the earth with green and nature. Another theory is that it was commissioned for the marriage of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco by his cousin Lorenzo Medici of the famous and one time most powerful Florentine family who turned out royalties and popes. They remain one of the most influential memories in Florence to date. Others have attributed the inspiration to Lucretius poem De Rerum Natura, a work I am not familiar with, and some others, say its Botticelli’s homage to Venus, typified by her prominence in position and her stance beneath the arch. All the same, this is a fascinating and refined work of art, the natural elements, the flowers, the colour, the figures, the painstaking details, the poetry…
Oh and on your way to the Botticelli room do look up at the ceiling, yes you will likely bump into a tourist or a sculpture but its worth the bump.
Botticelli- La Primavera & Birth of Venus amongst other works is in Room 10/14 amongst other works and entrance to the Uffizi is free every first Sunday of the month. The museum is closed every Monday, New Years’ Day, May Day and Christmas Day.