Essay, Research Paper: Botticelli


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Botticelli’s masterpiece, Primavera, depicts a scene of slow moving grace in
what appears to be a mythical garden. The actual subject of this masterpiece is
unknown, but there are volumes of ideas concerning the purposes and meanings the
painting could have. Despite the confusion the painting is widely admired and
revered as Botticelli’s finest works. The scene appears to be a spring
morning, with a pale light penetrating the straight vertical trees in the
background. The trees appear to bear golden apples, a possible reference to the
myth of Venus and the golden apple which seems feasible considering Venus
appears in the center of the painting underneath the great canopy provided by
the trees. Golden apples are also the attribute of the Three Graces, the
handmaidens of Venus, also shown in this work. Chloris, the ancient Greek
goddess of flowers, is fleeing from Zephyr, the west wind of springtime whom
begets flowers, on the right side of the painting. When Zephyr catches her in
his embrace flowers spill from her lips and she transforms into Flora the Roman
goddess of flowers. Flora is depicted separately from Chloris and is dressed in
blossoms as she scatters flowers over the ground. In the center is a dignified
Venus with a promise of joy. Above Venus is the infant Cupid, blindfolded and
aiming his arrows of love. To the left the Three Graces dance in silent daydream
of grace. They are separated from the other figures in time as indicated by
their hair blowing in the opposite direction from Zephyr’s gusts. The figure
on the extreme left is that of Mercury, messenger of the gods. He provides a
male counterpart to Zephyr. Zephyr is breathing love and warmth into McGaharan 2
a wintry world while Mercury is diverting this expression to a more culturally
acceptable form, considering the context of the time period, by opening the
scene to the gods. The scene has a dream like quality. The subject seems to be
ambivalent, the gentle yet strong colors give the figures presence and weight,
but the figures also seem insubstantial or dreamlike. The light figures of the
painting heavily contrast with the dark background of the woods. The ground does
not seem to be present but flowers are scattered on top of it adding to the
dreamlike state of the work. The picture is harmonized by the equal distribution
of figures over the picture plane. There is a slow moving rhythm to the way the
figures move added to by the various gestures of their arms, graceful and
elegant. It is interesting to note that the hand of the fleeing Chloris as it
overlaps, and appears to blend into, the arm of Flora. Botticelli lived from
1445 to 1510 in Florence. Despite his individuality as a Renaissance painter, he
remained little known for centuries after his death until his work was
rediscovered late in the 19th century. Botticelli was a pupil of the painter Fra
Filippo Lippi. He was commissioned to do this work after enjoying success over
his work Venus and Mars, an allegory of War and Love, for the Medici families.
Lorenzo di Piefrancesco de’Medici enjoyed Mars and Venus so much he
commissioned Botticelli for two works, Primavera and The Birth of Venus. These
works are considered his best works. I chose this piece because I reviewed Mars
and Venus and found the elegance of Botticelli style captivating. The mystery of
this particular painting interested me. The fact that scholars cannot understand
the exact subject of the work adds an element of mystery to the work.

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