Botticelli’s Primavera

Sandro Botticelli – La Primavera 1482

We’re looking at Sandra Botecelli’s and also one of the most enigmatic ‘The Primavera’ (latin) which means spring in English.

Venus, according to the Greek poet Hesiod who wrote the Theogony, was born out of sea foam. The story goes that the God Uranus had a son named Cronus who overthrew his father, castrating him and throwing his genitals into the sea. This caused the water to be fertilised, and Venus was born. In the centre we see Venus in her sacred grove looking directly out at us. The figures in the foreground are parted to allow Venus an unobstructed view of us and for us to look back at her and perhaps even to enter into her space. 


The trees around her part to show us the sky so there’s almost a sense of halo around her. If you look closely you will see a half circle, it’s like an architectural almost as an apps and it reminds us that this is a natural or mythical environment. We’re in the Renaissance and one definition of the renaissance is that it’s a rebirth of ancient greek and roman culture and here we have an artist who is embracing a pagan subject, the subject of Venus and also other elements from ancient greek and roman mythology. 

Three Graces

We have the three graces on the left. So who are they ? This was a subject that was very popular in Roman statuary and it was an opportunity that allowed for a sculptor to show the human body from three sides simultaneously. You multiply the figure and you just turn them slightly each time so that you really see a figure in the round.  

Nude Three Graces
God Mars

And then on the far left we have the God Mars who is the God of war. He’s put away his weapon, he is at peace in her garden. I’m not sure what he is doing, he has got a stick in his hand, he may be pushing away the clouds that appear to be coming in from the left. 

Zephyr and Flora

Then on the right we have three more figures, Zephyr the God of wind (the blue figure) who is abducting the figure of Chloris who you can see has a branch with leaves coming out of her mouth- a virgin nymph. Her expression is marked with fear, she wants to flea from his arms and she gazes back at him in panic. Chloris collides with the figure next to her who is Flora. Surprisingly Chloris and Flora are the same person. Flora is pregnant, swollen with Zephyr’s child, now that she is pregnant, her countenance is serene. Her fear is replaced by contentment. Although Zephyr raped her he fell in love with her afterwards and married her, transforming her into the goddess of flowers. Not a very good allegory for marriage but what I personally interpreted from this is that some of our sexual encounters are traumatic but we can still have a fulfilling sexual life. So what Flora is doing here she is reaching into her satchel, which is full of blossoms, which she seems to be strewing on the carpet foliage below. This is after all Primavera. This is spring. The fertility of nature. Flora represents the consummation of physical love and motherhood. She is the ideal of familiar love the kind of love between lovers who share a commitment that is not based solely on sex or pleasure, but is between married couples.


There is one other figure which is Venus’s son just above her, blindfolded. This is of course Cupid, who’s about to unleash his arrow on one of the unwitting graces and he doesn’t know who he is going to hit but we can sort of figure it out. 

To me personally this is a beautiful painting even though it does not have a specific meaning it’s easier to enjoy it and makes me want to join Venus in the garden. 

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