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Botticelli: A Marriage of Classical and Christian Art

Updated on July 9, 2012

Botticelli has several works that illustrate his attempt to fuse Classical and Christian thought. Two of the most noticeable of these are “Allegory of Spring/La Primavera” and “Birth of Venus.”

Sandro Botticelli: La Primavera, Allegory of Spring
Sandro Botticelli: La Primavera, Allegory of Spring | Source

La Primavera (The Birth of Spring)

In “La Primavera,” the characters involved are all from Classical thought – Chastity, Beauty, Passion, even Mercury. Yet their placement, and even the face of Venus who stands in the middle, are all reminiscent of Christian religious works. The Goddess Venus stands surrounded by her lesser goddesses, as Mary normally stands surrounded by saints and other religious figures. Venus is even wearing what seems to be a light blue gown (at least in the image in the textbook – it may be white or blue; it’s hard to tell), something else that was used to symbolize Mary within religious painting.

Botticelli: Birth of Venus
Botticelli: Birth of Venus | Source

The Birth of Venus

In “The Birth of Venus,” Botticelli has recreated the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, with Hora standing in the place of John, and the zephyrs standing in the place of the angel. The flowers, floating in the air, can be seen as the dove that floats down in several similar, yet Christian, works.

These two works are wonderful examples of the fusion of Classical and Christian thought. Using pre-existing Christian templates, Botticelli instead substitutes Classical characters, giving to them the same might and majesty that many others would not consider appropriate.


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      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Interesting take on Botticelli's paintings. These are the two of his that are my favorites. Interesting and informative article!