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Monday, April 21, 2014

Art History: The Allegory of Spring



The Allegory of Spring (Primaver) was painted in 1842 during the Italian Renaissance by Sandro Botticelli (1). He was raised as a tanner and made considerable fame in his lifetime. Some of his works were destroyed by himself later in life when he followed the direction of a famous monk. His works were powerful and he was once invited to paint in the Sistine Chapel (2). Only the best in Europe would be invited to engage in such activities and work for the Papacy.

There are a number of theories as they relate to the painting. One seems to stand out against the others in terms of a combination of a popular poem and mythology of the time. It is believed the painting exists in the realm of Venus with Zephyrus (blue face) chasing Flora, Flora who scatters flowers to create spring, and Venus who protects men (3). She appears pregnant as a sign of giving new life. To the left are three Graces who dance and Mercury who dissipates the clouds above.

It is a mythological story about marriage and children (4). At a time when women did not choose their husbands this story helps show how love and then marriage creates new life in the form of birthing of children (flowers in the picture). Venus is there to protect marriage and encourage the values of chastity, beauty and love.

It is believed that the painting was completed for the marriage of a young couple within the Medici family (5). It is a salute to a young couple in love that could afford to be married on their own terms. It is hoped they are protected by Venus and have many children. The wedding gift of choice likely was an expensive patronage by one of the powerful Medici family members.

Either way the painting is a great representation of the interpretation of life. Stories and narratives help create cultures. The more people who engage and believe in stories the more people become tied to an identity. Ancient mythology gave advice about life and tried to explain the world to the people who listened to them. They became a way of viewing the world and help explain its very purpose. 

Capretti, E. (2002). Giunti Editore. Firenze Italy. ISBN 978-88-09-21433-0.

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