McGaharan 1
Jon McGaharan
AP Art History
Mrs. Johnston
1 December 1999
Botticelli, Sandro. Primavera. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Mark Harden’s
Artchive. By Mark Harden. Available
Botticelli’s masterpiece, Primavera, depicts a scene of slow moving grace in what
appears to be a mythical garden. The actual subject of this masterpiece is unknown, but
there are volumes of ideas concerning the purposes and meanings the painting could have.
Despite the confusion the painting is widely admired and revered as Botticelli’s finest
works. The scene appears to be a spring morning, with a pale light penetrating the straight
vertical trees in the background. The trees appear to bear golden apples, a possible
reference to the myth of Venus and the golden apple which seems feasible considering
Venus appears in the center of the painting underneath the great canopy provided by the
trees. Golden apples are also the attribute of the Three Graces, the handmaidens of Venus,
also shown in this work. Chloris, the ancient Greek goddess of flowers, is fleeing from
Zephyr, the west wind of springtime whom begets flowers, on the right side of the
painting. When Zephyr catches her in his embrace flowers spill from her lips and she
transforms into Flora the Roman goddess of flowers. Flora is depicted separately from
Chloris and is dressed in blossoms as she scatters flowers over the ground. In the center is
a dignified Venus with a promise of joy. Above Venus is the infant Cupid, blindfolded and
aiming his arrows of love. To the left the Three Graces dance in silent daydream of grace.
They are separated from the other figures in time as indicated by their hair blowing in the
opposite direction from Zephyr’s gusts. The figure on the extreme left is that of Mercury,
messenger of the gods. He provides a male counterpart to Zephyr. Zephyr is breathing
love and warmth into

McGaharan 2
a wintry world while Mercury is diverting this expression to a more culturally acceptable
form, considering the context of the time period, by opening the scene to the gods. The
scene has a dream like quality. The subject seems to be ambivalent, the gentle yet strong
colors give the figures presence and weight, but the figures also seem insubstantial or
The light figures of the painting heavily contrast with the dark background of the
woods. The ground does not seem to be present but flowers are scattered on top of it
adding to the dreamlike state of the work. The picture is harmonized by the equal
distribution of figures over the picture plane. There is a slow moving rhythm to the way
the figures move added to by the various gestures of their arms, graceful and elegant. It is
interesting to note that the hand of the fleeing Chloris as it overlaps, and appears to blend
into, the arm of Flora.
Botticelli lived from 1445 to 1510 in Florence. Despite his individuality as a
Renaissance painter, he remained little known for centuries after his death until his work
was rediscovered late in the 19th century. Botticelli was a pupil of the painter Fra Filippo
Lippi. He was commissioned to do this work after enjoying success over his work Venus
and Mars, an allegory of War and Love, for the Medici families. Lorenzo di Piefrancesco
de’Medici enjoyed Mars and Venus so much he commissioned Botticelli for two works,
Primavera and The Birth of Venus. These works are considered his best works.
I chose this piece because I reviewed Mars and Venus and found the elegance of
Botticelli style captivating. The mystery of this particular painting interested me. The fact
that scholars cannot understand the exact subject of the work adds an element of mystery
to the work.


on paper