Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Romance of Springtime in a Renaissance painting

Bottecelli's  "Primavera"c. 1482

Ah, spring, when forest nymps frollick, gods and goddesses embrace humans, and when the earth bursts with new lush growth and a renewed spirit.

Historically, springtime is a time of renewal and rebirth. The easter bunny has nothing on the ancient religions, with Beltane, Ostara,  Spring Equinox, May Day, and the rites of spring.

The painting is Renaissance Art, by Bottecelli. The layers of meaning are endless, as art historians love to interpret the scene in many different ways.  Note the couple in the far right corner, they are Chloris, a forest nymph, being seized by Zephyr, god of the wind.


Next to the maiden Chloris, who is being passionately embraced by a very determined god, is Flora---actually another Chloris, who is transformed by love into Flora, the goddess of flowers, who symbolizes the onset of spring.  Another source claims that Zephyr doesn't just grab her but also rapes her. Nasty man. It's said that he was so sorry for his act and so he married her and made her the goddess of flowers, Flora.

  In the very center of this tableau is Venus herself, the goddes of love. She also guards and protects the institution of marraige. She's dressed in the pink flowing train, with lovely long blondish red locks. You've seen this woman before, in The Birth of Venus. Who was this lovely creature? Someone Bottecelli loved,  a beautiful model, or one of the Medici's?  The painting was commisioned by the Medici's so it's speculation as to who she is and why she's in more than one painting by the famous artist.  

The Birth of Venus, Bottecelli


The three women in the painting symbolize the Three Graces, Chastity, Beauty and Love, the companions of Venus. Next to them is Mercury, the god of the Month of May.  

 And don't miss Cupid, hovering above ready to fling his arrow and an unwitting victim.

The tableau is ripe, if you'll forgive me the pun, with images of spring and fertility. The myrtle plant surrouding Venus traditionally symbolized sexual desire, marriage and fertility. The oranges in the painting also represent fertility or bearing fruit through sexual union.You'll notice flowers everywhere, hanging from every bough, draped amid the trees, springing from the ground. Ah, springtime, when hearts lighten and a young man's thoughts are turned toward love . . . . 

Bottecelli's masterpiece has a very etheral feeling. It's love personified, as a lovely woman, as innocence, and as a violent force with the male god Zephyr physically seizing the object of his obsession, Chloris, and his possession of her transforms her into Flora, the goddess of flowers. It's rumored that a Medici patron had this painting commissioned in honor of a family wedding, and that the painting hung in the bride's bedchamber.   So, Spring is here. Feel like frollicking in the forest . . . watch out, the wind gusts might bring the lusty god Zephyr your way and you'll be transformed by the wonder and splendor of love!