Sandro Botticelli: La Primavera (1482)
(Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)
Sandro Botticelli was an famous Italian painter. This painting together with the birth of Venus are his best known works. This is a complex painting and its meaning is somewhat debated. Today, it is interpreted as an allegory of spring. The identity of the persons on the painting itself is also debated. The painting was probably commissioned by Lorenzo de' Medici or a relative so the painting contains references to the Medici-family. From left to right these persons are:
- in red: the God Mercury. He keeps the garden safe with his caduceus from threatening clouds
- the three dancing ladies: The Three Graces (Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia). These goddesses are identified with charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility. The jewels that they have bear the colors of the Medici family
- top: Cupid. The son of Venus and the God of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. The three graces are targeted by his arrow.
- central figure: Venus. She presides over the orange grove (the orange is a symbol of the Medici).
- with the flowered dress: Primavera. She is a personification of spring.
- The couple at the left are Zephyrus (the blue figure), the biting wind of March. He kidnaps and possesses the nymph Chlorisand makes her the goddess of spring, flowers and new growth (we know her by her Latin name of Flora). Notice also the plant coming out of the mouth of Chloris. The is a reference to Ovid: "As she talks, her lips breathe spring roses: I was Chloris, who am now called Flora".
The painting itself depicts about 500 identified plant species, with about 190 different flowers. This painting is from around 1482.