One of Botticelli’s most famous paintings is the Primavera (Spring), also know as L’allegoria della primavera (The Allegory of Spring), displayed in the Uffizi Museum in Florence.
Florence is, in fact, the city that gave birth to Sandro Botticelli (1445 -1510), whose real name was Alessandro Filipepi, one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance.
While critics are divided on the date, Primavera was certainly painted between 1477 and 1482.
The painting was originally located in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, a florentine palace situated on the via Larga, and was then moved to the Villa of Castello which, according to Vasari, also housed The Birth of Venus. It was subsequently moved to the Vasari Corridor, to the Accademia Gallery and finally to its current location, the Uffizi Museum.
The figurative composition, arranged in groups, presents nine subjects (two male and six female figures).
To be fully understood, the painting should be read from right to left.
The first character from the right is Zephyr, the Spring wind, who fecundates his beloved Flora with a puff. She then turns into Spring, scattering flowers all over the world.
Venus is placed in the center of the painting and above her we find a putto swaying while in the act of shooting an arrow from his bow. Venus seems to be reaching out to the Three Graces, who are doing the Carola, a typical medieval dance.
Finally, on the left we find Mercury dissipating the clouds with his winged staff.
The landscape in the background is composed of a forest of orange trees as well as a lawn containing many varieties of flowers.
The painting has generated much controversy for its interpretation. Most art historians agree that the painting depicts a group of mythological figures cavorting in a lush garden and that it is an allegory for spring. However, others believe that the painting is more than a simple illustration, representing the ideal of Neoplatonic love.
During the Renaissance Neo-Platonic philosophy was very popular. It focused on the perfect fusion of Spirit and Matter, as well as Ideas and Nature; Botticelli was greatly influenced by this type of philosophy.
From a pictorial point of view, Botticelli’s Primavera is characterized by different shades of light colors that contrast with the background in a play of light and shadow. As a result, the light and the shade stand out.
The naturalistic details of the lawn, the skillful use of color, the elegance of the figures, and the poetry of the whole all contributed to making this painting a masterpiece.
Spring is from the most serene and graceful period for Botticelli, as opposed to some of his other works, such as Map of Hell, which are very dark and gloomy and belong to a different phase of his artistic production.
In Inferno, Dan Brown contrasts these two masterpieces through this insightful passage:
The Map of Hell was one of the most frightening visions of the afterlife ever created. Dark, grim and terrifying, the painting stopped people in their tracks even today. Unlike his vibrant and colorful Primavera or Birth of Venus, Botticelli had crafted his Map of Hell with a depressing palate of reds, sepias, and browns
Picture from Wikipedia