Primavera - 1477-82
Galleria degli Uffizi - Florence - Italy
After starting his professional life as a training goldsmith Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) became apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-69). Lippi had developed a style of portraying expressive interactions between figures, and employing highly decorative detailing inherited from the late Gothic period, when art became more expressive and the bridge between Middle Age Art and Renaissance was being built. Botticelli was also influenced by Antonio Pollaiolo (1432-98), whose muscular modeling announced a new approach to figurative work, accounting for human anatomy and proportion. Botticelli painted on many scales, and his delicate evocations of landscape and figuration ensure his place as one of the most beloved painters of all time.
Some scholars have argued that his painting is an example of Botticelli’s interest in Neoplatonism – a blending of pagan and Christian identities which was raised by the hand of Cosimo de Medici in Florence, after rescuing The Platonic texts following the fall of Constantinople and its conquest by the Otomane Empire. The texts were on the basis of the Florence Platonic Academy founded by the Medici and lead by Marsilio Ficino.
La Primavera (Spring) celebrates the Florantine Renaissance - a cultural, political and economic rebirth of the Republic. The painting was originally hung in the summerhouse of the Medici family as a companion piece to the Birth of Venus. In La Primavera, Botticelli has created a lively scene that included, from left to right, the mythological figures of Mercury; the Three Graces; Venus, goddess of love; the nymph Chloris; Flora, goddess of fecundity; and the west wind Zephyr. Above them, Cupid, the god of erotic love, aims his dart at the Three Graces.
They seem to be performing the slowest of dances in a garden full of flowers touching the ground with only the tips of their toes and breathing a spirit of serenity in the midst of nature in all her majesty. All of them seem too light to be real and too elegant to have had to learn their dance steps. All of them look perfect far away from the human vices and from the turbulent relationships which affect humans. That's why they are Gods and Graces, and Nymphs and we feel so far away from their perfection that we can only enjoy the opportunity to attend this uplifting performance.
In the center, Venus lifts up her hand as if she was giving us a sign, although the gesture may not be directed at us, after all. If we look carefully, Venus, the goddess of love, is the only figure which is motionless and yet her head is above all. The painting was said to be ordered either to celebrate platonic love, between Giuliano de Medici and Simoneta Vespucci, or as a wedding gift for Lourenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, who married in 1482. Maybe that's why Spring, the tall young woman on the right, with fair hair and a dress spangled with flowers, whose movement with her hands suggest she is sowing seeds, appears as a renovation and the advent of a new season. Around Venus serenity, we can sense a strong wind, blown by an energetic god whose cheeks are distended. He is trying to catch a scared young nymph. Helplessly she tries unsuccessfully to escape from this force of nature but she is caught, issuing flowers from her mouth as an intermediary figure of coming Spring.
On the left, the Three Graces seem to perform the harmonious movements of a dance, and by twinning their arms together, they preserve an innocence which sets us apart from carnal love, overlooking Cupid, who is trying to harrowing Chastity.
Hermes, on the left, represents everything which is fake and misinterpreted. Being the god of the thieves, of the crossroads, of the forging links between language and the mind, Hermes busies himself chasing away the clouds that were forming a shield above him and waits that everything changes to a coming Spring which we'll never see but we can surely anticipate.
Finally, looking at the all painting we cannot help feeling some melancholy. No matter where the gods are coming from, and although they look perfect, they always give us a sense of far away exile, where they can never be reached. We are sure that their world is not ours. That their divine immortality is here to stay as if we were looking at them through a colored glass, seeing their different lives shining with its particularly forms and bright colors. Something which was always known, although seldom said.