Tuesday, 28 October 2008

...CAN SPRING BE FAR BEHIND?

The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence is vast: an exhausting labyrinth of passageways, corridors and rooms, adorned with what, at some time or other, has been rated as Great Art, though in truth it ranges from the dull and mediocre via the curious and passably interesting to works of masterful brilliance like Sandro Botticelli's famously iconic, Birth of Venus...

Click image to enlarge

...and his equally delightful (and similarly allegorical) Primavera...

Click image to enlarge

In case you wondered, here's (basically) what's going on...

Venus, , the goddess of love, is standing in the centre of the picture, set slightly back from the other figures. Above her, Cupid is aiming one of his arrows of love at the Charites or Three Graces who are dancing a rondel and who are, from youngest to oldest, Aglaea (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Mirth) and Thalia (Good Cheer).

The garden of Venus is guarded on the left by Mercury, who stretches out his hand to part the clouds of winter and make way for spring. From the right, Zephyrus, the god of the winds, is forcefully pushing his way in, in pursuit of the nymph Chloris (who, according to mythology, he raped but later, in a mood of contrition for his volent crime, married the wronged ladyand made her the goddess of flowers. Botticelli shows Chloris transforming into Flora who scatters flowers before Venus.

What I love about this picture is the fact that it's packed with stuff happening, crammed to the edges with activity: the scene is dense with detail (the flowers springing from Chloris' mouth as she turns into Flora, not to mention every leaf, bud and blade of grass) and everything is obviously laden with significance, such as the halo of foliage that frames the head of Venus.

Looking at this crowded scene, it's also amusing to realise that there are times when even the gods can be a bit cramped for space!

Anyway, I was reminded of Boticelli's masterpiece not long ago when saw a young pavement artist painstakingly recreating the picture in coloured chalks on a sidewalk on London's South Bank.


Whether hanging in one of the most prestigious art museums of the world or drawn on paving stones where it will be walked on and rained away, all art is really transient and, perhaps, that very vulnerability is part of it's power and beauty...

Image: Brian Sibley © 2008

3 comments:

Sheila said...

Brian, thank you for this. I am about a quarter of the way to completing a 3000 piece jigsaw of the Birth of Venus. I always discipline myself by not looking at the picture while doing puzzles, so - thanks to you - I now realise why there seem to be an odd number of legs on the left! I often wonder what artists would think to see their work used for jigsaws; but doing one is an excellent way of seeing all the detail of a picture. A similar sized puzzle of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel which I did last year revealed some features I had not seen before and reinforced my view of its quality.

Brian Sibley said...

I think using my blog as an aid to jigsaw-solving may actually constitute cheating! ;-)

However, your comment does create in my mind a wonderful image of Michelangelo laying on his back on a trestle under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with thousands of little pieces and calling out to Pope Julius II below: "I've got a bit here with a lot of sky and two touching fingers - can you see where that goes?"

Anonymous said...

Roger stumbles up to the podium in floods of tears:
"This is such a surprise (giggles inanely)I am so unworthy, (waves trophy aloft).I'd just like to thank... [20 minutes of acknowledgements, psychobabble and drunken ramblings deleted for the sake of those with a low boredom threshold]

Roger O B...