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notes for video la primavera in the private life of a masterpiece.rtf

Video: The Private Life of a Masterpiece La Primavera
Sandro Botticelli
Hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence Italy
La Primavera (Allegory or symbolism of Spring)
○ Italian for spring
○ Divine beauty inspires both nature and mankind
○ Painted in Florence Italy in 1480’s
○ Never traveled more than a few miles from home
○ Very popular painting
○ Very large painting
▪ 10 feet wide
▪ 3 inch thick panels
○ 9 figures are portrayed
▪ Slightly smaller than life-size
▪ All from classical mythology
○ In the center is Venus
▪ Goddess of love
∙ Above her is her blindfolded son Cupid
∙ Aiming a flaming arrow
○ At 3 figures called the “Three Graces”
▪ Young male figure on left is Mercury
∙ Messenger of the gods
○ Trademark winged boots
○ Aloof demeanor
▪ Most puzzling figures are grouped on the right
∙ Zephyr
○ Winged god of the west wind
▪ Coming down to seize Chloris
∙ A wood nymph
○ He rapes her
And transformed into
“Flora” the goddess of
The 2 female figures
seen here are the two
expressions of a single
The figures stand in a fertile meadow
○ 500 individual flowers are shown
▪ Representing 170 species
∙ Each uniquely rendered
∙ Identify the figures and flowers are not difficult
500 year old question?
○ Why are they all gathered together in this enchanted garden?
○ It was painted 100 years before the world of Shakespeare
▪ During the artistic boom of the Renaissance in Florence
∙ Florence was the “happening” place for artistic endeavor
Sandro Botticelli
Also painted The Birth of Venus
○ Born round 1444 in central Florence, Italy
○ Came from a poor artistic family
▪ Father tried to make ends meet rather than advance in his
○ Was first sent to be trained as a goldsmith
○ At age 18 he apprenticed to one of the master painters of the city
▪ The Carmelite monk, Fra Filippo Lippi
∙ Learned skills that were important
○ Depiction of movement
▪ Especially in female figures
○ By mid 20’s Botticelli
▪ Was the master painter of Florence
His skill earned him a call from Rome
○ To paint some of the frescoes in the newly
constructed Sistine Chapel
▪ Religious works
∙ But was a prequel to “La Primavera”
▪ Was considered a religious artist
∙ Took a huge moral and artistic risk to do such a huge
pagan work
∙ But was painting what the customer wanted
○ Artist during the Renaissance rarely got to choose
their subject matter
○ Man who commissioned “La Primavera”
▪ Ruler of Florence
▪ Head of the mighty Medici dynasty or
∙ Lorenzo the Magnificent
∙ Renaissance prince
∙ Very wealthy
∙ Politically connected
∙ Huge patron of the arts in Florence
∙ Some think that Lorenzo himself is
represented in “La Primavera”
○ In the figure of Mercury
○ In real life Lorenzo was rather
○ Botticelli painted a “flattering”
picture of him for others to
▪ Wanted to have the ideal
Florence was governed like Rome
▪ A new sophisticated pagan art was emerging
▪ Botticelli was an artist entrepreneur
In a time when people wanted different kind of things
To create “La Primavera”
○ Botticelli had to break new artistic ground
▪ To throw off the restrictive rules of Christian Art
▪ Even though these were rules he observed
○ Most citizens in Florence
▪ Had some form of religious imagery in their homes
∙ Crucifixions
∙ Madonna and child (most popular)
○ These subjects accounted for about half of all art
produced at that time
“La Primavera”
○ Evokes certain conventions of religious painting or an altarpiece
▪ Even though it is a secular or pagan art
▪ Venus is in the center
∙ Around her is a natural arch of foliage
○ Similar to the arch topped images of the Virgin
▪ Venus also has her own version of the “Christ” child
∙ Cupid flying above
▪ La Primavera centers on the images of love
∙ As does in Christian virtue
○ This could be reinterpreted for this radical pagan
painting of this time
The Three Graces
○ Challenging to Botticelli technically and socially
○ First sensuous female figures in art
▪ For over 1,000 years
▪ Wispy drapery reveals as much as it conceals
▪ This was only allowed during this time
∙ Because they are not to be perceived as real women
○ They’re nymphs
Specific category of being in the Renaissance
▪ Meant to give you pleasure in thinking about
their beauty
∙ Without thinking about anything
particularly naughty
∙ They are Venus’s handmaidens
○ They are an extension of her
grace and beauty
La Primavera
○ Took Botticelli over a year to perfect it
○ Thought to be Hanging in one of the Medici family’s elaborate
country villas
▪ Allegedly was in the same room as Botticelli’s other painting
∙ “The Birth of Venus”
▪ But documents unearthed 3 centuries ago told different
∙ Was in the bedroom of a townhouse in Florence
∙ Not Lorenzo the Magnificent
○ But his orphaned nephew and ward also named
○ This is the man that “La Primavera” was
commissioned for
○ In 1482 young nephew Lorenzo was about to
become a pawn in some serious political
maneuvering by the Medici family
▪ Young Lorenzo was supposed to be in an
arranged marriage to the teenage daughter of
a powerful rival family
∙ Would be useful political allies for the
Medici family
∙ They were married July 19, 1482
○ Both minors
○ Both strangers to each other
Love was not in the picture
▪ In the Renaissance time
period love was not
typical, they married for
practical reasons
So there is a loveless marriage
○ And a painting presided over by Venus, the goddess of Love
○ This may have been the origin of “La Primavera”
○ Normal to commission a painting around the time of people’s
Darker them in “La Primavera”
○ Lies in the group of figures on the right of the painting
○ Scene of sexual violence
∙ Zephyr
○ Winged god of the west wind
▪ Overcome with lust and seized Chloris
∙ A wood nymph
○ He rapes her
○ Rape scene in a painting commissioned for a marriage seems out of
place for modern times
▪ But was commonly used in gifts to married couples
▪ Used in the wedding chamber
○ Also created the woman being torn to pieces by dogs
▪ Painted in 1483 by Botticelli
▪ Titled: “The Chase”
▪ But tale has a happy ending
∙ In the final scene of the series the blood has been mopped
∙ And a marriage celebration is taking place
In “La Primavera”
○ Violence is transformed into happiness
○ Zephyr is overcome by shame
▪ Takes Flora as his wife
She is content as her smile suggest
▪ So its message in showing a happy marriage born of adversity,
∙ is to offer a reassuring message to a nervous teenage
Young Lorenzo and his bride did not display “La Primavera” in a hall for all
to see
○ But in their bedroom
○ Showed the developing intimacy between the two
Painted with the medium egg tempera
○ In art what an artwork is made from (ex: clay=pottery)
▪ Egg tempera
∙ Made with egg yoke
∙ Used to show transparency
Was a technical triumph
○ Delicate draperies
○ Sensuous dancing figures
○ Challenging composition
▪ Marked a high point of the early Renaissance
▪ Such a combination of emotional gravitas (A serious or
dignified demeanor) and physical weightlessness
∙ Has rarely been achieved
The philosophy of Plato
○ Lorenzo the magnificent
○ Brought together the best minds about poetry, politics and philosophy
▪ Botticelli understood the importance of great philosophy
∙ And gave them pictorial form
∙ Some scholars may argue that a progression of the human
○ Moving from base, carnal love through civilized,
human love
To divine love
▪ The extremes represented by the rape scene on one side and
Mercury re-ascending on the other
▪ Offers the viewer a work not of just aesthetic beauty
∙ But also of intellectual beauty
○ Flowers have symbolic meaning
○ Strawberries represented on the head of Flora and
on her wedding gown and bouquet
A symbol of seduction
▪ Because they have no stone
▪ Attracts us with pleasant taste
○ Carnations
▪ Bride hid on her body
▪ And bridegroom had to find it
La Primavera
○ Brimming with images of marriage and love
○ One of the greatest artistic achievements of its era
▪ But that era did not get to know the painting at all
▪ By the 16 century
∙ The Medici family had been driven out from Florence
∙ Young Lorenzo was dead and his townhouse demolished
∙ Botticelli was growing old and lame
○ His work was out of fashion
○ In 1510 Sandro Botticelli died in poverty and
○ La Primavera remained in private hands
▪ Hidden from the world
▪ At the Medici family’s country villa
∙ For nearly four centuries
○ It would be seen by only a
handful of people
In 1743 the last of the Medici family died
○ And bequeathed (gave) La Primavera to the city of Florence
Even then it remained in obscurity
○ Stored in a storeroom in a gallery for another 100 year
○ This makes the painting out of public view for 500 years total
○ In the early 19 century
▪ History of art was taking off in Italy in a big way
▪ Only until 1856 was La Primavera went on public display
▪ And caused a sensation
▪ Became very popular in the 20 century
∙ Was massed produced
∙ Rene Magritte surrealist painter
○ Painted his take on La Primavera
▪ In his satire of painting
▪ Flora when taken out of its context
∙ Looks campy and artificial in costume
∙ Looks like a comic figure
∙ Stripped from their deeper meaning
∙ A painting so rich in detail was now
too much to digest, in an age of logos
and copyrighted images
∙ La
experienced, deciphered