The Portrayal of Love
Botticelli's Primavera and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent
Widely acknowledged as a prime manifestation of Florentine humanist culture under Lorenzo de'Medici, Botticelli's Primavera cannot be fully interpreted without considering the poetics that expressed the Laurentian cultural program and, in turn, the Renaissance itself. In this analysis Charles Dempsey examines the poetry written by Lorenzo and his literary clients in order to give definition to the cultural context in which the Primavera was created. A celebration of Love, the painting is shown to incorporate both public and private imaginative realms while embracing the ideal and the actual experiences of the present.
The Primavera, depicting Venus as the spirit of Love and springtime, is simultaneously old-fashioned and modern, rooted in International-Style vernacular conventions and evincing a nascent classical vocabulary. After describing the profoundly humanist classical foundation of the invention of the Primavera, Dempsey identifies its genre with rustic song, then relates the painting to the conventions of vernacular love poetry. A close reading of the painting in relation to works by Lorenzo, Politian, Pulci, and other poets working to elevate vernacular expression by infusing native Tuscan with Latin forms suggests how the idea of Love portrayed by Botticelli in the form of Venus incorporates not only the ancient springtime renovatio mundi but also the actual cultural renovation--the Renaissance--imagined and sponsored by Lorenzo the Magnificent.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
The suggestion that the Primavera does not merely illustrate texts but is itself the material equivalent of a poem guides the study and deepens our understanding of ut pictura poesis in Quattrocento aesthetics.... This book forms the necessary point of departure for all future readings of this most elusive and challenging of Florentine pictures.---Cristelle L. Baskins, Sixteenth Century Journal This book forms the necessary point of departure for all future readings of this most elusive and challenging of Florentine pictures.---Cristelle L. Baskins, Sixteenth Century Journal Lucid, elegantly written, and scholarly: a valuable monograph and an exceptionally thoughtful case-study of the relation between literature and art.---Virginia Cox, The Times Literary Supplement Dempsey eloquently praises the 'philological' precision with which Botticelli wedded the Classical and the vernacular, the modern and the antique. He himself shows a similar combination of eclecticism and critical insight as he weaves ideas and observations from Warburg and Wind, Cropper and Francastel into an original and striking explication of the painting. . . . An erudite and stimulating book.---Anthony Grafton, London Review of Books