Tag Archives: Primivera

Primavera: Aphrodite/Venus

AphroditeimagesCA42KGLFVenus/Aphrodite, goddess of love is the central figure draped in red and dressed in blue with Cupid above her. Like the flower-gatherer, she returns the viewer’s gaze. The orange trees behind her (a Medici symbol) form a broken arch above her to draw the eye. She stands in front of a myrtle bush which is sacred to her. Venus/Aphrodite clothed herself in myrtle bush after she emerged from the sea where she was born.

In 1499 the painting was in the collection of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’Medici. One of the models proposed for Venus was Semirande, the wife of Lorenzo. Another possible model was Simonetta Vespucci, a supposed mistress of Guiliano de’ Medici. Since 1919, the painting has hung in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. During World War Two, the picture was moved to Montegufoni Castle about ten miles south-west of Florence to protect it from wartime bombing.

Next week, Treasures of the Uffizi.
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Primavera: Zephyr & Chloris

KidnapimagesCA42KGLFThe two figures on the right are Chloris and Zephyr. Chloris is often associated with Flora whom we met yesterday. In Greek mythology, however, she was a wood nymph who was pursued by Zephyr, the West Wind. When he caught her, they were married and she became immortal. She was associated with spring. She was believed to have transformed several humans into flowers – Adonis, Hyacinthus, and Narcissus – for various reasons.

Check out Zephyr on the far right. His cheeks are puffed, his expression intent, and his unnatural complexion separates him from the rest of the figures. The trees around him blow in the direction of his entry with the skirt of Chloris whom he is grabbing.
Tomorrow, Aphrodite and Cupid.

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A Salute to Spring: The Three Graces

Three GracesThe group of three females represent The Three Graces – beauty, joy and charm. They are dressed in imagesCA42KGLFdiaphanous white with their hands joined in a dance. Two of the women wear necklaces in the Medici colors. Cupid has an arrow aimed at the dancing women. The central figure of the Graces, who has turned her back to the scene is checking out Mercury, unconcerned by the threat represented by Cupid.

Notice that the women are blondes of various shades. Blonde hair with high foreheads was the preferred look during the Middle Ages. Many women resorted to shaving their foreheads to give the appearance of being higher. The blonde hair was achieved in many ways. Trotula was an 11th century female physician who attended the University of Salerno (Italy). Three treatises on women’s health care are attributed to her. While  little is known about her, it is certain that the U of Salerno trained and graduated female physicians. Here’s one of the methods for lightening hair from The Trotula:

For coloring the hair so that it is golden. Take the exterior shell of a walnut and the bark of the tree itself, and cook them in water, and with this water mix alum and oak apples, and with these mixed things you will smear the head (having first washed it) placing upon the hair leaves and tying them with strings for two days; you will be able to color [the hair]. And comb the head so that whatever adheres to the hair as excess comes off. Then place a coloring which is made from oriental crocus, dragon’s blood, and henna (whose larger part has been mixed with a decoction of brazilwood ) and thus let the woman remain for three days, and on the fourth day let her be washed with hot water, and never will [this coloring ] be removed easily. 

Tomorrow, Meet Flora. Rita Bay

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