Once a week we take a painting, or piece of sculpture, that interests us, tell you a bit about it and hope it sparks something with you and your families. We would love to hear your recommendations.
The Spring Equinox – when the sun crosses the earth's equator, and day and night are equal lengths of time – was on Saturday. Where as meteorological spring was on the first day of March, this year 20th March marked the first day of astronomical spring after which days get longer and lighter. There seems no better time to look at Bottiecelli's magnificent 'Primavera'.
Primavera ('Spring') by Sandro Botticelli
1482, Uffizi, Florence
Primavera (‘Spring’) is one of Botticelli’s best-known paintings. Commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent the head of the powerful medici family and executed in 1482. The picture celebrates the arrival of Spring and is filled with mythological symbolism.
The painting is set in grove of orange and laurel trees on a meadow of flowers. 'Primavera' shows nine figures from classic mythology:
Venus (Goddess of Love and Beauty) dominated the painting in the centre. The orange trees bend here to form an arch framing the Goddess. She is chastely dressed and set back from the others.
On Venus’ left is Flora (Goddess of Flowers and Spring) clad in garlands of Flowers.
Next to Flora is the nymph Chloris. Chloris was described by Ovid as transforming into Flora and so symbolising the beginning of Spring. Botticelli has placed both figures side by side within the same painting.
Chloris is pursued by Zephyrus (God of Wind) who has a burning passion for her.
On the right of Venus The Three Graces, female companions of the Love Goddess who perform their dance at the onset of Spring.
Next to the Graces stands Mercury (Messenger of the Gods) who inspects the orange grove and protects the garden from intruders. In classical mythology Mercury has the winged shoes of the messenger and holds a staff in his right hand to separate two fighting snakes that then wrap themselves around the staff and thereafter symbolise peace. But in 'Priavera' Mercury uses the staff to drive away clouds therefore maintaining tranquility in the garden.
Floating above the adult figures is Amor (son of Venus) who is blindfolded as he shoots arrows of love with their flaming tips.
There is an abundance of fruit and flowers. The notes from the Uffizi tell us that there are 138 species of different plants that have been identified, all accurately portrayed by Botticelli. His attention to detail part of the paintings magical skill.
Anya Waddington 21 March 2021