Another of Botticelli’s most famous paintings is his Primavera. Though it’s not known for sure, it’s thought that the painted may have been created in honour of the wedding of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici (who probably would have hired limo waterloo for the occassion, had the option been available). There are a number of things in the painting that suggest such a conclusion, and these will be discussed below. Be it associated specifically with marriage or not, it is generally accepted that the painting does, on at least one level, depict the fertility and fecundity of the Earth in Springtime.
Starting on the far left, we have the Roman god Mercury (who has also been identified by one art historian in particular as Mars), who can be identified by his nifty winged sandals. Mercury is the god of the month of May (as well as a bunch of other things, like messages and trading), and is also referred to as the god of boundaries. This title refers traditionally to the keeper of boundary between the bridge between the upper and the lower worlds, but, in this painting, as he seems to be holding a staff with which he is ushering away the winter clouds, it could also, I suppose, refer to his keeping of the boundaries between seasons. Just a thought.
Beside him, directly to the right, are the Three Graces. Very important in mythology, these three figures represent Love, Chastity, and Beauty, all of which are traditionally feminine virtues and suggest a romantic context for the painting. In the centre, above Venus, we see mischievous Cupid pointing his arrow at the Three Graces, reinforcing the idea that this might have been created for a marriage. A different interpretation focuses rather on the fact that the central figure of the Graces has her back turned to Cupid’s arrow, and she is instead focused on Mercury. Her focus on Mercury can, in turn, be interpreted a couple of ways. She could be drawing the viewer’s attention to what Mercury is thought to have been looking at, which lay outside the frame in another of Botticelli’s painting beside which it is thought to have hung (called Primavera: Pallas and the Centaur), in which knowledge-oriented love triumphs over lust. On the other hand, she could be looking longingly at Mercury, anticipating the sharp pang of Cupid’s arrow.
Below Cupid is his mother, Venus, depicted as the ideal woman, and reflecting the humanist infatuation with the Classical world. On Venus’ immediate right is the Spring goddess Flora, distributing flower petals, which, you guessed it, represent Spring and new birth. To her right is the nymph Chloris, being chased by the god of the West Wind, Zephyrus. According to myth, Zephyrus lusted after Chloris, and once he caught her and made her his own, flowers started to spring from her mouth and she became the goddess Flora.
All this is taking place in an orange grove, suitable for the Medici family, as they had chosen the orange tress as their family symbol. The painting currently hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.