– Primavera, by Italian painter Sandro Botticelli is believed to have been created in around 1477 – 1482. The painting has the dimensions of 2.03m x 3.14m and is a life-size tempera on panel painting, currently being displayed in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. It is categorized as an allegorical painting because of the various objects in the painting that have a hidden meaning behind them. The figures are distributed evenly and take up most of the space; the canopy of leaves covers the rest. The scene in the painting seems to be set in an orange grove because of the bright orange fruits and the white flowers – that resemble an orange tree – that are scattered thoroughly in the thick canopy of leaves in the background. Beyond the dark outline of the trees, is the pale blue sky peeking through. Due to the lack of linear perspective, the figures in the painting almost seem to be floating in the foreground. The ground that the eight figures are standing on is covered with different species of flowers, but because of the frontal perspective, it all appears to be on the same plane. Venus, the Goddess of Love who is in the middle of the group of figures, is slightly off- centred. Her gaze is striking and reflects back that of the viewer. She appears to be the most important figure in the painting because of her posture; her lavish clothing and drapery; her position among the other figures – they seem to make way on both sides for her stand in that location; and even the nature seems to be her command because the braches and leaves curve in a way that it creates a semi-circle behind her – almost a halo. The myrtle tree right behind her is one of the symbols that represent her. All these facts point out that she is possibly be the owner of this garden. Above her is her son, Cupid, the God of Love. He is not wearing any clothing and is flying right above her; also he is blindfolded, yet is pointing an elaborately designed wing-shaped arrow towards The Three Graces. On the left side of Venus, are the three nymphs or minor goddesses – The Three Graces – Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne. They are scantily clad, but each has at least a single piece of jewellery and they are seen to be dancing amongst themselves. They represent the feminine virtues of chastity, beauty and love, but in this painting, they also represent the different sides or poses of the human body. In the far left is Mercury (the winged boots and staff give away his identity), the God of War, who looks like he is trying to drive away clouds that are coming in from the left, with his caduceus. He is also the only one, except Venus, who has some kind of footwear on. As for clothing, he has a red cloth draped around, which is kept in place with his sword (holder strap). To the right side of Venus, a whole scene seems to be taking place because on the extreme right, Zephyr, the bleak west wind – with his grey skin tone and dark blue cloth (draped around him) resembles dark clouds – is abducting the flower nymph, Chloris – who is scantily clad as well, but unlike The Three Graces she is not wearing any jewellery – she looks like she is in distress and a branch with leaves and flowers appears to be growing out of her mouth. This indicates that she is going to become Flora, the goddess of spring, is only one along with Venus, who looks back at the viewer. She is situated to Chloris’s left because both of them are covered in similar looking flowers. She has a flower crown on, a garland of flowers and leaves; there are flowers on her dress and in her satchel that she is reaching into and all this point out that this scene on the right side of the painting is the depiction of the Greek myth of how Zephyr, the God of Wind captures the nymph, Chloris and rapes her with his breath; and soon she transforms into Flora.
– In the painting, the dark branches of the trees against the blue sky create some negative spaces that are very important for the composition because it not only made the painting balanced and unified, but also create some atmospheric perspective to distinguish between the different planes of the painting. The negative space in the composition also makes Venus’s face the focal point because of the dark, contrasting leaves and branches behind her. Her face grabs the viewer’s attention at first glance and then their eyes ease into viewing the rest of the figures and other elements in the composition. Due to the presence of so many figures in the foreground, contrast between the background and foreground, balances out the composition and makes it not look busy. The figures are placed in such a way that they look like they have a place (, purpose to play) in the painting, thus creating a feeling of unity. Their symmetrical placement only adds on to that feeling of belonging. The arrangement also gives off a sense of movement in the painting. Imaginary lines can be visualized throughout the painting. The canopy of trees creates a horizontal line; another horizontal line can visualized around the point of the shoulders of all the figures, except for Venus, Zephyr and Cupid; the next line falls around their hips and the last one is at their knees where the flowers on the ground become more visible. The placement of Cupid and Venus creates triangles in the composition to give it symmetry. Lastly, vertical lines line can also be visualized in the painting, after every scene, such as – Mercury chasing the clouds, the Three Graces dancing, Venus just staring intently, (Cupid is just above Venus so he is grouped together with her,) and Flora, Chloris and Zephyr portraying their tale. These various lines and shapes that can be visualized upon looking at the painting help the composition by creating rhythm and making the viewers look around the painting and notice the different elements and minute details in it. The similarities in the colours used, like the warm tones of the oranges on the tree, the flowers on the ground and the clothes of Venus and Mercury are similar but still different by a shade or two. Even though one color maybe brighter than the other or more muted than the other, it still creates rhythm because they are still in the same colour range. When looking at the painting, the presence of several patterns is quite clear – the lines and shapes that can be visualized, the same colours of flowers, robes and even hair are scattered around the painting, the shadows that give depth to figures and other elements. Botticelli places each and every detail in such a way that their sizes are proportionate to their real-life equivalent. Since the painting is life – size, every figure, except Cupid, is proportionate to an average human body. All the figures and details are created in a way that they are the correct scale in relation to the each other; this creates harmony in the painting, along with the repetition of various warm shades of orange and the patterns and lines. The use soft brushstrokes give the robes of the nymphs the transparent appearance. The details on the various robes, flowers, hair, jewellery, every aspect of the artwork is so precise that it truly showcases the painter’s artistic abilities.
– I think the name of the artwork – Primavera, which is derived from the Italian language and translates to spring, is a huge hint as to what the artwork is about. Since the artwork is considered to be an allegorical painting, I think every detail that went into it, may have a hidden meaning behind it. Looking at the painting, the dark trees and their outlines gives it somewhat of an enigmatic mood. According to Greek Mythology, Mercury, who also represents the month of May, is seen to be driving away clouds; this could roughly translate to him trying to change the weather. If that is the case, then based on the scene of Zephyr and Chloris, it could be the beginning of spring after the cold winter months. Therefore, starting from the right and ending at the left, it can be the progression through the spring months. The presence of the figures like Venus, Cupid, Flora, and the Three Graces confirm that the themes of love and fertility are also part of what the painting is about. Therefore, I think the artwork is about spring – the rebirth of things after overcoming harsh conditions (in this case, winter). It is believed that this painting was probably commissioned by Lorenzo de’ Medici as a wedding gift for his cousin Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici. The painting was a means to tell the bride, who was a young girl – how marital love is different from pre-marital lust. Thus, the suggested themes of patience through tough times lead to good things (rebirth), and also (marital) love and fertility – so the theme of virtue over lust appear in the painting. The artwork reminds me of a current day social gathering, where people have come together, but they are doing their own thing. So you end up standing alone, all awkward, even though this is your house and your event but you cannot cope with the hosting duties. So, you just end up standing there and wait for this thing to end because it can only get better from this point onward.