La Primavera è Qui

Postcards by , on
Mar 24, 2024

La primavera—can there be a more delightfully pictorial or euphonious word? Derived from two Latin roots: primus meaning “first” and ver meaning “spring” (as a verb “spring” means to well up, leap forth, and to come into existence) and the verb has become a noun that describes the cycle of nature it characterizes. And it sounds as full of life as the season itself.

To celebrate spring’s arrival let’s take a close look at the painting, The Allegory of Spring, by Sandro Botticelli which, like his Birth of Venus, has become a beloved icon of Western art. The work depicts a group of mythological figures in a garden and is an allegory for the fecundity of spring.

Reading the painting from right to left, the biting March wind Zephyrus, depicted as a bluish male creature with aggressively puffed cheeks, kidnaps wood nymph Chloris, the maiden with flowers springing from her mouth. He then “marries” her and transforms her into the deity Flora, represented by the the flower-crowned figure in a delightful floral-patterned frock scattering the flower petals.  The elaborate scenery has been shown by botanists to contain over 500 identified plant species and about 190 different flowers. Clustered on the left, the Three Graces in diaphanous sheaths dance in a circle watched over by Mercury, who holds a staff to usher away the clouds and guard the garden—providing a spiritual balance to nature’s fecundity on the right. Somewhat set apart and above the others, but very much at the heart of all the springtime activity, is Venus (looking a bit like a Blessed Virgin Mary), goddess of love and harmony. Above her is Cupid, her son, and behind him the limbs of the fruiting orange grove form an arch gracefully framing Venus, providing a privileged position to serenely preside over the garden and beckon us to join in the celebration of la primavera.

About 140 years later Antonio Vivaldi, composer, conductor, and virtuoso violinist composed his best-known work—a series of  4 violin concertos titled Le Quattro Stagioni, The Four Seasons.  The first, “La Primavera”, is the most well-recognized and best loved piece of classical music in the world (with the first bars of “Spring” rivaling the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony).

And Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance, is delightfully abuzz with chirping birds and ablaze with colors this glorious time of year. Florence is also the birthplace of Dante, the world’s greatest poet and author of The Divine Comedy. He chose to write his magnum opus in the vernacular rather than Latin and is celebrated as the Father of the Italian Language and revered as national hero on the order of George Washington. Countless Italian cities have erected statues of him or named streets or piazzas after him. And most recently March 25th (this Monday) has been recognized as Dantedi and a national day of celebration of Dante and his towering legacy.

Happy Dantedi and may these early day of la primavera fill you with hope and joy!

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