Art That Makes You Smarter: Primavera

Using Art Prints in the Classroom

Botticelli, Primavera, c.1477
Medium: Tempera on wood
Dimensions: 203x314 cm

In Florence, Italy, in the mid 1400s, the wealthy Medici family became patrons of Sandro Botticelli. They commissioned him to paint many pieces possibly including Primavera. The Medici family and Botticelli were interested in allegory and classic mythology during the time this piece was completed. Primavera depicts the coming of Spring. There are several ideas on the meaning of this painting. Some think it is a meeting of lovers. Others think it represents the four seasons or womanhood. Most believe it to be a painting of Venus (central figure), Mercury (left), Cupid (above Venus), and Flora (strewing flowers from her gown). It is widely accepted that this painting is in some way related to a marriage between the Medici and Appiani families. This marriage was arranged to unite both powerful families. The bride and groom had likely not met before the ceremony. Thus, Mercury is driving away not only the dark clouds with his staff, but also the anxiety this marriage would have brought the bride.

Questions for Students to Ponder and Explore:
What make this painting important for the time period? Where are these figures located? What is beyond the trees? Why is one figure painted in dark colors? What does this figure represent? Why are the women dressed so differently? Why does one woman have a flower in her mouth? Why are only two figures wearing shoes? What is represented by the contrast of the dark trees and light sky? How old do you think the figures are?

Arts Integration Ideas (adapt for specific grade levels as needed):
History/Social Studies/Religion- Research the Roman gods. Determine who you think each figure represents and defend your reasoning. Why would an Italian Renaissance painter use Roman figures in his paintings? How is the Italian Renaissance related to Rome? OR Use a double bubble map to compare and contrast Roman and Greek gods. 
Science- Research common plants of the location and time period of this piece. Make a best guess at what type of fruit is growing on the trees and defend your reasoning. Is the vegetation in the painting accurately depicted? Do you think that the artist used actual plants as models for this painting OR did he invent new ones?
Writing- What game might the three ladies on the left be playing? Invent a new game based on what they are doing in the painting. Write the instructions for how to play the new game. (procedural) OR Write a story about the three figures on the right. What are they doing? (fiction) You could also write your own Roman myth based on the painting.
Math- Locate angles in the painting. There are many (Cupids' arrow, between the figures' legs/feet, tree trunks to figures' bodies, etc.). Measure. Use these angles to draw your own picture (could be abstract, doesn't have to have people in it). Paint it. OR Draw a "floor" plan of where each figure is standing. Measure the distance between figures. Use lots of estimation. OR talk about tessellations and the central figures fabric. OR Have an estimation contest. Estimate how many flowers or how many oranges are in the painting. Count to determine the actual number. 
Language- This painting has lots of action because all of the figures are doing something. Some are doing more than one thing. Make a circle map of the verbs in the painting (aiming, dancing, holding, touching, walking, grabbing, biting, etc.). Then use the verbs to write about the painting. 

Helpful Resources:

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room