Botticellis Spring


     The
renaissance was a time of wonderful art, though one artist in particular stood
out, that was Sandro Botticelli. This man created some of the most renowned
pieces of art in European history; one great painting was Allegory of Spring.

This mythological artwork was an amazing change from the normalcy of past times.

Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring, painted in 1482, is one of the most
remarkable and astounding pieces of renaissance art with the wondrous symbols,
style, story of the piece and also the intriguing history of Botticelli himself.

Botticelli is considered one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance; one of
his finest works was Allegory of Spring. Botticelli, originally named Alessandro
di Mariano Filiapepi, was born in Florence, Italy in 1445. He was nicknamed "Botticelli";
meaning little barrel, this name was originally bestowed upon his older brother
but for some reason passed on to and adopted by his little brother (4:68). He
was first an apprentice to a goldsmith, though at about age thirteen or fourteen
he stopped training and traded to painting. He was an apprentice to Filippo

Lippi. This man’s style formed many of Botticelli’s early works. Botticelli
also worked with painter and engraver Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Botticelli had his
own workshop by 1470; there he spent most of his life working for many great
families in Florence at the time, especially the Medici family. As one of the
artist in the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, he was immensely influenced by its

Christian Neoplatonism (5:7). With this in mind he tried to reconcile classical
and Christian views. Though working for himself a lot he was also commissioned
by many others. He joined Perugino, Ghirlandaio, and Rosselli from 1481 for one
year to paint frescos for the Sistine Chapel. Botticelli worked with some
consequential artist of the Florentine Renaissance, which would shape and change
his style of painting. Botticelli’s works are seen as a landmark of high
renaissance. He created some of the greatest works of this time. His early
pieces were mostly of the virgin and child (1:78). He first made a name for
himself when in 1470 he was public commissioned to paint Fortitude, which would
be hung in the Trade law court in Florence. One of his first real milestones was
the creation of the Adoration of the Magi, which he painted around 1473-1475.

This painting veered away from some of his earlier more morbid content. This was
one of the first pieces commissioned by the Medici family, who in this case gave
many guidelines for the young Botticelli to follow. Botticelli would go on to
paint Portrait of an unknown man with a medallion of Cosimo the Elder, in the
same time period (5:42). Then he would create one of the most well known

Allegory of Spring, quite different subject matter from times before with the
conceptions of mythological characters and a defined plot. Then in 1481 he went
to Rome to work on frescos of the Sistine Chapel ordered by Pope Sixtus IV.

After this he went on to create the sister painting to Allegory of Spring, Birth
of Venus. Botticelli continued to create heroic works of art portraying many
different stories and characters. He painted an array of religious artwork as
well as portraits and mythological pieces. He was a well-rounded painter who
will influence the art world for centuries after his death in 1510.

Botticelli’s style of painting was a combination of the influences of his
teacher, but the time and his own creative energy help determine much of his
work. Botticelli was an apprentice to Lippi who had a huge influence and him
defined many of his early works. Lippi taught Botticelli the concept of drawing
outlines, this was to create the effect of transparency, and to give the
painting a certain fluidity and harmony (2:69). A viewer can see this in many of

Botticelli’s work including Allegory of Spring. Botticelli was also influenced
by the Pollaiolo brother whom he also works with. These men taught him emotive
force and also the usage of color. An obvious idea, which can be viewed in many
of Botticelli’s allegorical paintings, including Allegory of Spring, is the
greater amount of luminosity, as well as a softer look of pride (2:70).

Botticelli wanted to accentuate the elegance of the pose and the decoration of
the characters also. This artist held a great adhesion to the neo-platonic style
of Marsilio Ficino and Agnolo Poliziano. Not only was Botticelli influenced by
certain people of this time he was also influenced by the early Greek and Roman
culture, especially the ancient mythology. This is the basis of the work

Allegory of Spring. The entire story line, characters, and style were partially
picked up by these people. This was a concept new and different at this time,

Botticelli did not only use it in this one painting it was also widely present
in the equally as famous Birth of Venus. Venus, the Roman goddess of love and
beauty, is featured in both of these painting, representing the likeliness of
beauty and love as well as ancient Roman culture and religion to Botticelli. The
concept of Roman and Greek mythology entwined with some of Botticelli’s

Christian ideas creates what many scholars call Christian Neoplatonism. This
would have a huge impact on the style that Botticelli designed for this work.

Neoplatonism is the backbone in this work by one of the most thought provoking
painters of the Renaissance. Botticelli’s notion of replacing the normal

Christian-Hierarchy-Portrait painting was remarkable (3:1). This concept of

Christian Neoplatonism was new and conventional; Neoplatonism is the collective
designation for the philosophical and religious doctrines of the classical pagan
philosophy. These theories of knowledge are mainly based on the ideas on
explanations of Plato. Neoplatonism seeks to locate the One, or God in Christian

Neoplatonism, in the finite world and human experience. This was and is a
complex and confusing way of thinking however it was this that Botticelli based
many, including Allegory of Spring, on. This concept really came into play
during the third century of Rome. It is partly based on the Greek mythological
logic and religion with many newer Christian aspects added upon it. This is an
ever-changing subject with many different sects of views and new ideas forming
all the time (3:2). Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring was painted in 1480 with
tempura on canvas. This pre-Christian piece was one of the largest panel
paintings with mythological themes. This painting has been in the Uffizi art
museum in Florence, Italy since 1919 and was recently restored in 1982.

Botticelli painted this in honor of the marriage of Lorenzo Pierfranceso de’

Media and Seriramide Appiani. Most likely this painting was inspired by Ovid,

Lucretius, and the great Roman poet Horace. The picture combines the classical

Roman pose of antique statues with the more recent gothic ideas. This painting
is overwhelmed with character and ancient mythology creating one of the most
prized paintings of the great Italian Renaissance. The inspiration for this
painting could have come from reading the Latin poets Ovid’s Fasti, but it is
more likely that the inspiration came from Verses for the Joust by Agnolo

Poliziano. It was in this, which the writer describes a meadow where grasses and
plants grew, where the winds blew and where "Happy Spring was ever present".

This poem refers to the neoplatonic thoughts seen throughout the painting (5:7).

This is a very complex and intricate painting with an intensely interesting
plot. This painting is set in Venus’ divine garden with a flower filled meadow
and a shady grove in the background. There are numerous slender trees and many
mythological characters in the scene. To the left end of the painting is

Mercury, the son of Jupiter and the nymph Maia. Virgil’s Aeneid could have
inspired this young traveler with hat, sword and winged sandals. Mercury, who is
the herald of Jove, is portraying the dispersing of winter winds and the renewal
of spring. Just next to Mercury are the three graces dancing in a circle. One
touches cupid above as one turns towards Mercury. Notice the linearity of the
outlines of one of the graces that creates a feeling of spirituality with their
features and shape (2:68). The cupid that is motioned to is Amor, the god of
passionate love. Amor, or Eros to the Greek, is the winged son of Mars and

Venus. This can be seen by the bow, which he carries and also the arrows, quiver
and blindfold. Just below Amor is the goddess of love and beauty, Venus. Venus
extends her hand toward the three graces to modulate their dance. On the far
right is the icy blue god of the west winds, Zephyrus. He embraces Chloris; he
is transforming her from nymph into Flora the goddess of spring; Flora is the
figure between Chloris and Venus. This painting is Botticelli’s conception of
spring in a reverse pagan concept. One of Botticelli’s greatest additions to
the artwork he created was the amazing symbolism within. The symbolic meaning to
this painting is while spring awakens the world to the beauty, Venus uses love
to turn the human heart to truths divine (1:78). This painting is mostly based
on the beauty and renewal of life in spring, it also focus’ on love. Venus,
the center point of this painting stirs the flowers to life with her warm winds.

Venus is the symbol of spring this is seen by the adornment of flowers by the
graces. She, not only a symbol of spring, represents civilization, governing the
world and the actions of men. There are many interpretations of Venus, another
idea is the portrayal of spiritual love, with above her, a bandaged Cupid in the
process of shooting one of his arrows. Further to the left are the three graces,
their fingers entwined, their hair delicately waving and their transparent
dresses, they are dancing harmoniously, while Mercury dispels the clouds from
the flower filled garden, with his caduceus. This wooden stick with two snakes
twisting around it, is a symbol of medicine (3:2). Mercury himself is not merely
a handsome youth but a revealer of the truth as he touches the clouds to unveil
the mysteries (1:78). The characters in this piece have a great depiction of the
thoughts of Botticelli. The painting itself has many underlying meanings, also.

For example, the blossoming gardens represent the metaphor for the fertility of

Flora. Chloris and Flora are the same people in this painting though they are
portraying the metamorphosis they she is going throw. The graces may symbolize
liberty. These additions to the painting that Botticelli made had a huge
influence on the way many people perceive him and his work. This painting’s
theme is mainly based on the vivid symbols and representations. Botticelli had a
true gift of including and understanding all aspect of artwork when creating
this piece. In Birth of Venus much of the same symbolism carries over to add
interest and a personal touch to his work. Many of Botticelli’s successors owe
much to this man who paved a wonderful road to the use of symbolism. The
symbols, the story line, the style of this artwork all come together to form a
harmonious conception that the renewal of spring brings. Botticelli’s every
brush stroke signifies the beauty and mysteriousness of the mythological story
depicted in this piece. Botticelli brings to life the peacefulness and abundance
of new life to Venus’ garden. This painting is truly a highlight of

Renaissance culture and art at its peak, with the fluid brush strokes, the
statuesque characters and the true meaning of spring brought together.

Bibliography

1. Canto, Lillio. The Renaissance, the Invention of Perspective. New York:

Chelsea House Publishing, 1994 2. Korn, Irene. Great Masterpieces of the World.

New York: Robert M. Tod, 1997 3. Neoplatonism www.connect.net/ron/neoplatonism.html

4. Setton, Kennith. The Renaissance, Maker of Modern Man. Washington DC: 1970 5.

The Uffizi: The Official Guide. Florence, Italy: Giunti Gruppo Editorial, 1998

6. Zollner, Frank. Botticelli, Images of Love and Spring. Munich, Germany:

Prestel-Verlag, 1998