Looking at Botticelli’s Primavera makes me want to climb up on a stool and walk into the scenery. Even though the subjects dominate the space, they seem so inviting. It makes perfect sense to me that Botticelli would use such a beautiful figure as Venus for a central figure. The subjects don’t shy away from each other and they seem to know one another. Apart from the frightening green assailant on the right, all the figures have a beautiful friendly quality. Who wouldn’t want to dance among in a circle with the three women or walk with the same purpose and poise as the lady dressed in flowers? Who wouldn’t pick the ripe fruit from the trees or long to stand next to Venus? She has such a caring air it’s a wonder the figures don’t huddle around her for protection.
Many have debated as to what Botticelli meant by this painting and a similar one called The Birth of Venus. McKay introduces the idea that “some art historians claim that Venus is an allegory for the Virgin Mary.”(McKay 422) The art is still shrouded in mystery, but it reflects and expresses some interesting concepts from humanism at the time of the Renaissance. Sean Connolly says in his book Botticelli that “Botticelli’s patrons were strongly inspired by Neoplatonism. This humanist school of thought prized the passage from carnal love to a higher plane of reason an contemplation.” (Connolly, 25) What he is referring to is the idea that the spiritual beauty is more important than the physical beauty. Botticelli makes something as mythological as a goddess seem as real as anyone on the street. She is by far more beautiful and the characters are much more poised than you would ever see in real life, but it still appears to be an attainable dream.
Another painting I like that’s very similar is Dosso Dossi’s Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue. The best part about this work that it has a twist: instead of being placed in the background like as a painter or patron normally would, Dosso Dossi supposedly is Jupiter. It’s a joke because Dossi is painting himself painting butterflies. What makes the picture even more amazing is that the butterflies seem to fly both off the easel in the painting and the canvas itself. With much of Humanism focused on the classical texts and Roman and Greek culture, seeing art that represents old mythologies is inspiring. I think it’s demonstrative of how much the artists wanted to make the gods real that they would try and paint so vividly.
People in the Renaissance wanted to be able to connect and be a part of ancient stories and culture so much that they added themselves to the ambiance. Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris, two professors who review art for Khan academy, showed this when they showed Raphael’s School of Athens representing his self-portrait among many Greek and Roman philosophers. There was also a depiction of Hericlitus that might have been modeled by Michaelangelo. According to A History of Western Society, “People were conscious of their physical uniqueness and wanted their individuality immortalized.” (McKay, 423) The book explained that many Renaissance artists painted in their patrons or real people into legendary scenes as well as doing portraits. The attempt was to defy time and be portrayed forever for anyone to see. Being placed next to the somewhat forgotten but then revived characters intensified the feeling of timelessness.
I like the idea of making imaginary worlds and creatures real, even if only in art. It’s the same values that are represented in Utopia: an attempt to represent a better world. The interest in Greek and Roman culture with humanism combined with the realism of the Renaissance creates what seems like a window into another world.
Connolly, Sean. Botticelli. Milwaukee: McRae Books Srl, 2005. 24-27. eBook. <http://books.google.com/books?id=_GGGfb1nx4QC&pg=PA25&dq=botticelli neoplatonism&hl=en&sa=X&ei=K_VQT8HSNZDTiAKRlsi4Bg&ved=0CFkQ6AEwBw
Hutchison, Niels. “Dosso Dossi’s “JUPITER, MERCURY AND VIRTUE”, 1523-4..” Colour Music. Niels Hutchison, 2011. Web. 29 Feb 2012. <http://home.vicnet.net.au/~colmusic/dossi2.htm>.
McKay, John P., Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, and Merry E. Wieser-Hanks. A History of Western Society. 9th ed. B. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.
“Raphael’s School of Athens” (Video) Smarthistory.org, Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker, Dr. Beth Harris (12 min 29 sec). Accessed March 1, 2012. <http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/school-of-athens.html?searched=school athens&highlight=ajaxSearch_highlight ajaxSearch_highlight1 ajaxSearch_highlight2>.