BOTTICELLI, Sandro (b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)

La Primavera, "Allegory of Spring"

1477-78
Panel, 315 x 205 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

After Masaccio, Sandro Botticelli comes as the next great painter of the Florentine tradition. The new, sharply contoured, slender form and rippling sinuous line that is synonymous with Botticelli was influenced by the brilliant, precise draftsmanship of the Pollaiuolo brothers, who trained not only as painters, but as goldsmiths, engravers, sculptors, and embroidery designers. However, the rather stiff, scientifically formulaic appearance of the Pollaiuolos' painting of The Martyrdom of St Sebastian, for instance, which clearly follows anatomical dictates, finds no place in the painting of Botticelli. His sophisticated understanding of perspective, anatomy, and the Humanist debate of the Medici court never overshadows the sheer poetry of his vision. Nothing is more gracious, in lyrical beauty, than Botticelli's mythological paintings Primavera and The Birth of Venus, where the pagan story is taken with reverent seriousness and Venus is the Virgin Mary in another form. But it is also significant that no-one has ever agreed on the actual subject of Primavera, and a whole shelf in a library can be taken up with different theories; but though scholars may argue, we need no theories to make Primavera dear to us. In this allegory of life, beauty, and knowledge united by love, Botticelli catches the freshness of an early spring morning, with the pale light shining through the tall, straight trees, already laden with their golden fruit: oranges, or the mythical Golden Apples of the Hesperides?

Famous in the world, this masterpiece -- painted for the villa of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici at Castello - marks the artistic prestige of Botticelli, reflecting with philosophical and literary themes, the cultural background of humanistic cercle of Lorenzo dei Medici. The painting is an allegory of Spring, with mytological figures identified as (right to left): Zephyr running after the nymph Clori, who transforms herself into Flora, goddess of Fecundity; in the center is Venus, goddess of Love and here represented as queen of her realm, with Cupid straining a dart to the three Graces, while Mercury raises the caduceo to the clouds. Many flowers in the grass symbolize wedding: the picture could be indeed commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent as the wedding present offered to his cousin Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco dei Medici, who married in 1482 Semiramide Appiani. In the villa of Castello, near Florence, where lived this medicean branch the painting is documented in 1499.

Restored in 1982


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