Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Enigma And The Ecstasy: Botticelli's Primavera

Fig. 1. Sandro Botticelli - Primavera, c. 1482

'We should also note that, Flora, after becoming Zephyr’s bride, never ceased waxing lyrical about his prowess as a lover, or his superlativeness as a husband; that the suppression of Venus’ lustful aspect also entails the suppression of her sexual vitality; that it is an infantile male, Eros, who “inflames” Thalia’s/Semiramide’s heart with a preference for emotional enchantment over erotic desire; that female perfection is represented as something achieved by “cultivation”, while male perfection remains fully conversant with the “wild” forces of nature; and that, ultimately, the address of the painting is to a woman who is being asked to see herself not as someone who acts, but, rather, as someone who is acted upon (just as Semiramide was in being married off to Lorenzo). Flaunting its links to Ovid’s Fasti, Botticelli’s Primavera is one continuous metamorphosis, which kicks off with a violent deflowering and powers down with the passive blossoming of a woman into a wife. In the process, the bride-to-be is reassured of her safety, and of her importance to the Medici - especially to Lorenzo the Magnificent, who rewards in her in advance by encouraging her to think of herself (via Botticelli’s demure Venus) as supreme mistress of his family’s vernal Garden of Love. Identity has been exchanged for image, thanks to the ennobling influence of a cast of archaic luminaries and the “naturalising” propensity of a superabundant, ostensibly eternal, Nature.'

Lucio Crispino (from The Enigma and The Ecstasy: On Reading Botticelli's Primavera, c. 1482