Saturday, 21 June 2008

The Uffizi and Botticelli

La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli (1445 - 1510)
This beautiful allegorical painting shows a garden with the Three Graces garlanded with flowers and the springtime wind Zephyrus chasing after Flora. The winged Genie, on the right of the painting is generally thought to be Zephyrus who chased and possessed the nymph Chloris and then married her giving her the ability to germinate flowers. Near to Chloris is the smiling figure clothed in flowers representing the transformation of Chloris into Flora, the Latin goddess of Spring; the woman in the centre is possible Venus and this is her garden. Above is Cupid, the blindfolded god of love. Finally, the youth with the traveller's hat, sword and winged sandals is certainly Mercury, herald of love and perhaps an emblem of knowledge.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (1445 - 1510)
This painting was found with the Primavera in a villa at Castello, the former property of Lorenzo Pierfrancesco de'Medici who died in 1505. Like the Primavera this work is representative of the most serene and graceful phase of Botticelli's art, linked to the neo-Platonic atmosphere of the age: we are shown the fusion of Spirit and Matter; the harmonious marriage of Idea and Nature.

During my all too brief visit last week to Florence (Firenze) "City of Flowers" I managed to fit in a visit to the Uffizi Gallery. Uffizi means Offices and the building was indeed once Offices - it is the most beautiful building within as well as without with painted ceilings and rooms decorated with mother of pearl. Plus it has breathtaking views of Florence's river Arno and the many stone bridges which cross it.

There was much to see in the centre of Florence - amazing white marble statues and astonishingly beautiful buildings. However, if I had to choose a highlight it would be these two paintings by Sandro Botticelli which hang next each other in the Uffizi Gallery.