Botticelli’s Primavera…. it’s not pizza

By May 9, 2021 May 17th, 2021 No Comments

Botticelli’s Primavera – it’s not Pizza…..

It’s a 500 year old Blockbuster about sex, violence, drugs, rock ‘n roll and….. the arrival of spring.

Yes, the weather has been weird this year but spring has always sprung surprises. I only need to look out of my window at the garden to see that! And this got me thinking about the most famous and controversial painting about the season of rebirth and hope.


More than 500 years ago Sandro Botticelli painted the Primavera. If Springsteen had written its story, it would have sprung from a cage on Highway 9. If Spielberg had filmed it, Indiana Jones wouldn’t have got a fair crack of the whip. It’s the original, 18 rated, blockbuster with more dark plot lines than Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty.

This gory allegory is not for the faint hearted.

What’s in a Story?

The story unfolds from right to left with Zephyr who represents the wild March wind. He has designs on the virtue of the wood nymph, Chloris. Does she consent to what happens next? She is “ravished” and transformed into Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring, before scattering forth an abundance of flowers, new growth and hope.

Is she a Christ figure violated by a criminal monster but reborn? Or does she represent a more ancient, animalistic, pagan reading of the violent rites but burgeoning fertility of spring?

Perception is Everything

Whatever the interpretation, however enigmatic, Flora is clearly smiling which was very unusual in a painting of this period. She is looking out of the painting, directly at us. Mischievous?

To her right is Venus, the goddess of April and love, who also looks directly at us. Above her is a blindfolded Cupid about to shoot someone but not her. Has she ordered a hit? If so, why would she choose a blindfolded child? Someone should inform Health and Safety.

To her right the Three Graces are symbolic of sisterhood. On the far left is Mercury, the god of May and, amongst other things, good fortune and fertility. He has either lost the plot, which would hardly be a surprise, or something is going on in the sky, because that’s where he is looking. Either way it isn’t him that the blindfolded Cupid is about to shoot, it’s one of the three graces who will cop the arrow.

But that’s strange. Is the arrow tipped with a love potion or poison? Has Venus been betrayed by one of her sisters? Has Mercury been a bad boy? Disgraceful behaviour may well have occurred or be about to occur!

The Clues are there

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that there may be clues in who is looking at who, and why?

It reminds me of the song lyric by Gary Moore: “I was looking back, to see if she was looking back, to see if I was looking back at her.” Something is clearly going on here and it isn’t random!

Like the identity of “H” we may never know.

What I am sure of, though, is that people will still be trying to solve the ‘Botticelli’s Primavera’ mystery in 500 years’ time. That is unless he painted more series which have yet to be discovered.

Bring on the sequels – Summer, Autumn and Winter!

Neil Kinsella

Author Neil Kinsella

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