Why is the famous painting by Botticelli “Spring” called a mythological mystery
The painting “Spring” (“Primavera”) was called a “mythological mystery”, and critics did not agree on the meaning of the canvas: an allegory of a wedding or a fertile season? The glorification of Venus or beauty? There are many interpretations of “Spring”, while one does not exclude the other. What mysteries does this famous painting by Botticelli hide?
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, nicknamed Botticelli was born and died in Florence. He became a favorite artist of the Medici family. For an influential patron, he created his most famous paintings. In 1482, Lorenzo Medici ordered “Spring” as a wedding present to his 17-year-old nephew Lorenzo di Pierfranchesko Medici. It was supposed to be the interior of the Medici villa in Castello, near Florence, and serve as a kind of instruction for the young obstinate young man whom, for political reasons, uncle married a girl from a noble family Semiramide d`Appiani. Oddly enough, after the death of Botticelli in 1510, this picture was considered obsolete, too distant from the then popular style of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. A similar attitude developed for other works of Botticelli, forgotten for hundreds of years, until critics rediscovered them in the 19th century.
“Spring” is one of the greatest works of the Uffizi Museum in Florence. This is a mesmerizing work where flowers, plants and dancing figures create a world of pure grace and movement.
The plot and meaning of the picture
The representation in the picture is unrealistic and more like a theatrical melodic decoration with an absolutely flat background. Here, the artist does not reproduce reality, but creates an ideal world of images. Characters have flying unhurried poses and gestures, melancholy smiles, their figures are distributed in strict sequence. If you pay attention, you can notice the musicality and melody of the composition: groups of three persons move around the picture like notes in a musical composition. It is this musicality that makes “Spring” an exceptional and unsurpassed picture.
Heroes of the picture
The canvas depicts nine heroes of classical mythology, towering above a flowering lawn in a grove of orange and laurel trees.
Venus, the goddess of love, fertility and the renewal of nature, appears in the center of “Spring”. Her presence is a reflection of the humanistic interest in the classical world that was popular in Florence at that time. Humanism is the main idea of the Renaissance. Dressed in typical 15th century Florentine clothing, Venus stands in an arch formed by tree branches. She frames Venus and gives her a privileged position in the picture. Cupid is hovering over her head. According to some art critics, the prototype of Venus was Simonetta Vespucci (Medici’s daughter-in-law, Semiramida d`Appiani).
On the left, the viewer sees the beautiful three graces dancing hands (in mythology, this trio of sisters often symbolizes pleasure, chastity, and beauty). The Roman writer Seneca calls them “pure, blameless and holy.” Pearls are gracefully woven into their hair, which symbolize purity. The robe of graces looks like lace, light and transparent – this is a demonstration of Botticelli’s virtuosity in depicting complex types of fabric. It is interesting to note that the three graces become the target of Cupid’s arrow, which reinforces the idea of marriage.
To the left of the three graces, Mercury – the Roman god of May – uses his caduceus (staff) to drive away gray clouds. As the messenger of the gods, he is dressed according to his mythological role – in a helmet and winged sandals.
On the right side of the picture is Zephyr, the Greek god of the west wind, chasing a nymph named Chlorida. After he manages to reach her, Chloride turns into Flora, the goddess of spring, which is pictured to the left of the couple. Flora scatters the flowers that she collected on her dress – this is a symbol of the coming spring. Thus, the picture illustrates the natural transformation.
For beauty and an unrivaled picture, Botticelli included in the scene more than 500 species of plants, including 200 species of flowers. In detail depicting a natural environment with an abundance of fruits and flowers, Botticelli was inspired by the art of tapestries, for example, milfleur rugs (“thousand flowers”), popular in that era throughout Europe.
Symbolism of the painting
Orange grove – a symbol of the Medici dynasty (customers of the picture).
Mercury is the Roman god of eloquence, craftsmanship, commerce and theft, a messenger and messenger of the gods, identified with Hermes.
Three Kharitas (graces) – Aglaya, Efrosina, Talia – the goddess of fun, inspiration and joy of life. Servants of Venus. They were called during the festivities to bring harmony.
Venus is the goddess of beauty, fertility and prosperity. Depicted in the image of a modest married woman.
Zephyr is the god of the west wind.
Flora is the goddess of flowers, flowering, spring and wild fruits. The picture shows her process of transformation from the nymph of Chlorida.
Cupid is the son of Venus, hanging over the head of his mother. His eyes are closed because love is blind. He points his arrow at one of the Harit, which has noticed Mercury.