Behind the paint – Primavera by Botticelli


Primavera by Botticelli

The inspiration for today’s post came from a fantastic poem by the poet Hames1977, which I urge you to read as it is truly beautiful! (here).  Sandro Botticelli was a principal painter in Florence in the latter half of the 15th century.  He was born 1444 and he lived until 1510.  His work is very lyrical and, decorative and almost feminine – which was the Florentine style.

Botticelli self portrait from the Adoration of the Magi 1476

The stamp of approval came from the famous Medici family who were his main patrons.  He accomplished lots of altarpieces, portraits, banners and allegories with literary references.  the Primavera is perhaps one of his more famous paintings.  It was painted in 1463-1503) and is said to have been commissioned by a Medici.  The term ‘Primavera’ means ‘Spring’ and it’s not only a young man’s fancy that turns to love – these gods and goddesses have the same idea and cavort with playful abandoness!

Mercury. messenger of the Gods, stands with winged boots holding back  the clouds on this scene with his caduceus entwined with snakes.

The Three Graces

Attending Venus are the Three Graces in diaphanous gowns displaying typical female Renaissance beauty with their sloping shoulders and long swanlike necks.

Flora's gown

The artist has decorated Flora’s gown with a very good imitation of embroidery and a halo of leaves surround Venus as she stands in the carpeted woods.  Cupid the God of Love flies above her, blindfolded as love is blind.  Is he aiming his arrow at the Three Graces? or is he just hovering above his mother?

The rather sinister blue figure  is the West Wind and is the ghost of Zephyrus, God of the West Wind.  He is touching his lover Chloris.

Zephyrus and Chloris

The goddess of flowers Flora strews blossoms where she treads.  With her beautiful features, her embroidered dress and her grace she symbolises the joys of marriage and is a symbol of Florence, the city. 

Venus detail

There is a strange metamorphosis taking place though.  When Zephyrus fell in love with Chloris, pursued her and took her as his bride, she was transformed into Flora. 

You will notice the flowers falling from the mouth of the nymph and onto the dress of the Goddess.  Botticelli shows the courtship – and the outcome!

Cupid, Venus Chloris and Zephyrus

The painting measures 80 x 123 1/2  in.  tempura on panel, Uffiz Florence

The ‘Primavera’ image came from here and here and here.  Botticelli self portrait from here Flora’s gown here and details here

8 thoughts on “Behind the paint – Primavera by Botticelli

  1. dear lynda,

    i dont know what to say, really. i am overwhelmed with happiness seeing you writing about Venus, the same theme i have used in my poem. thank you for linking my poem to this post. boticelli’s artpieces are brimming with romance and beauty of the human figure, and you have expertly showcased them here.

    best regards to you.

  2. I think if the world were about to end and before being blasted into space to find a new home, I was allowed to select ten paintings from the history of art to go with me..this would be one of them. When I saw this huge Botticelli painting in Firenze, I fell in love with it at first sight. Now, I’ll need a good think to decide what the other nine masterpieces would be?

  3. Lucky you getting the chance to see the real thing Al! I’ve always said that reproductions can’t hold a candle to the real thing. This is so true where paintings are concerned. Picasso’s paintings still seem as fresh as the day he painted them. ‘the Ambassadors’ by Hans Holbein the younger is a very impressive painting. Glad I picked a favorite of yours!

  4. I was able to visit your country on one occasion and had the best time in the museums. I thought the National Gallery had the overall best collection of paintings representing most of the recognized schools and movements.

  5. Yes, couldn’t agree more about the National Gallery – nearly every painting is recognisable: a very fine collection. Also the Tate Modern for the more contemporary art. Very fond of the V and A and Tate Britain and Tate Modern for interesting exhibitions. Too bad they’re all in London:) We have a great permanant exhibition of Pre Raphaelite paintings though (Manchester) which I have to mention!

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