Interpreting a Masterpiece: Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’

Can an old painting still mean something to us? “La Primavera,” 1481–1482, by Sandro Botticelli. Tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery. (Public Domain)

What relationship does a modern spectator have with a painting created over 500 years ago? It’s sometimes difficult to see meaning in art seemingly outdated in style and subject matter. But if a viewer can look at Sandro Botticelli’s “Primavera” (“Spring”), for example, as it relates to certain questions that still affect us, it can regain relevance. For example, asking “How do I feel about the ideas presented in the painting, such as love, beauty, chastity, marriage, humanism, and ethics?” can lead, possibly, to self-discovery.

Botticelli created “Primavera”in the early 1480s as a gift for the Medicifamily. He often painted for the Medicis, who were interested in the ideas and imagery of classical Greek texts, so this painting contains symbolism and imagery from many ancient authors, with the most influential being Ovid.