Primavera by Botticelli, Sandro
c. 1482 Tempera on wood, 203 x 314 cm.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Today Primavera is admired widely trough the world. Even though, majority of people explain their attraction as a response to aesthetic qualities, scholars still argue about the content. L.D and Helen S. Ettlinger in their book ‘Botticelli’ admit that “different interpretations may be given to Primavera, and in case of a Renaissance painting it is quite possible that it has more than one layer of meaning.” I believe it is the complexity of this painting that touches every viewer on different level. It makes all of us deliberately or subconsciously to search for a meaning.
First of all the very important knowledge become available, which explains the very basic purpose of creation. The painting itself began its life as a piece of built-in furniture for the newly-weds bedroom. Part of it depicts very sensual and seductive nymphs. The other part shows melodrama that begins with a scene of rape and lead to the happy end and transformation from Chloris’ disgrace into Flora’s dignity. It all explains how the physical love works and may serve to the practical and educational purposes for both groom and bride.
In the very center of these quite pagan’s scenes one can see the ancient love Goddess, Venus, depicted in a very medieval traditional way. Her elongated figure, drapery of her cloth, arch behind her back, and the blessing right hand transformed pagan Venus into Christian Mary. We also see her son Cupid spreading love with his arrows just like Jesus did with his words.
The most intriguing figure to me is still the Mercury. The fact that he turned his back on the Venus and the Graces makes me wonder about his possible inner-transformations? He just may be selfishly in-love with himself just like Narcissus. But his hand reaching the sky reminded more homosexual love indeed. Some historical sources claim that in antiquity love between two men considered as a divine love unlike the love between man and woman.
That finally leads us to the intellectual world of this masterpiece. Botticelli patrons’ obsession with Neo-Platonism theories suggest the possibility that artist would find some pictorial symbolic way to put a symbiosis of art and intellect which also transforms into supreme love of humanity.
Even if provided only these couple of guess-explanations of Primavera’s content it would be hard to find at least one person that would not find it appealing at any way. Only that quality makes this painting a masterpiece. Still Primavera or Spring is not a painting to be taken literary. After all spring is the time for transformations. The painting invites every one to try and find some hidden meaning within it that will awake something deep inside.