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The Circular Nature of the Primavera

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  1. Mirella Levi d'Arcona's Botticelli's Primavera - A Botanical Interpretation Including Astrology, Alchemy and the Medici.
  2. The context chosen by the interpreter
  3. D'Ancona's begining of the wedding of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici to Semiramide Appiani.
  4. Michalski's limiting the focus of his article to the central figure.
  5. The complex and intricate garb of the central figure
  6. The shifting foci and source documents for each element in the painting
  7. Conclusion

Botticelli's Primavera begs for meaning. It is a complex, large-scale masterpiece with apparent contradictions in mood, movement, theme and context. The direct gaze of its central figure instructs the viewer to look carefully, as does Botticelli's precise hand. Every deliberate petal, every careful pattern, every pointed glance drips with significance. The trick, then, is to define that sense of significance and transform it from silent colors on a piece of tempera into a coherent body of words, hopefully coming to summation in a single idea as exquisite as the dance of the three figures in the left side of the painting. Countless scholars have attempted to find a cohesive interpretation of the Primavera using what historical sources are available including letters, political events, philosophy, celebrations and countless other hypothetical treasure maps to the Primavera's meaning.

[...] Venus is also the bride and the setting for the Primavera is Venus' Garden of Love. D'Ancona bases this and the rest of her interpretation on the idea that the underlying program for the Primavera comes from Ovid's Fasti (The right side of the painting) and Politian's Stanze (the left side). However, her identification of Venus as the bride is limited to the symbol of a bride; d'Ancona holds the idea that, given the political unrest within the Medici sphere of power, the painting was actually commissioned and begun as a gift for Guiliano d'Medici, who was killed before the painting could be completed. [...]


[...] He holds that the female values of Semiramis are ideal for the future wife of a d'Medici and that while her iconography is limited there is enough visual evidence to connect the central figure in the Primavera with Semiramis in a thematically relevant way. Given the wildly divergent contexts from which each of these scholars postulate, it is no surprise that their discussion of the Primavera's iconographical program varies in terms of its scope, its breadth and the conclusions it reaches for each part of this large and complex painting. [...]


[...] Charlse Dempsey, The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli's Primavera and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Princeton Sergiusz Michalski, Venus as Semiramis: A new Interpretation of the Central Figure of Botticelli's Primavera, Artus et Historiae c.1482, tempera on panel, 203x314 cm. Currently housed in the Uffizi. Mirella Levi d'Ancona, Botticelli's Primavera: A Botanical Interpretation Including Astrology, Alchemy, and the Medici, Florence, Leo S. Olschki Mirella Levi d'Ancona, The Garden of the Renaissance, Florence, Leo S. Olschki 1977. Charlse Dempsey, The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli's Primavera and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Princeton Sergiusz Michalski, Venus as Semiramis: A new Interpretation of the Central Figure of Botticelli's Primavera, Artus et Historiae d'Ancona identifies the central of the three Graces as Semiramide [...]

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