From Richard Owen in Rome
AN ITALIAN art expert claims that he has cracked the hidden code in one of the most most enigmatic Renaissance paintings, Sandro Botticelli's Primavera.
Enrico Guidoni, Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Rome University, said that scholars had sought for centuries to interpret Botticelli's masterpiece, painted in or around 1482 for Lorenzo de Medici, better known as Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-1492), the great ruler of Florence and patron of the arts.
The scholars, Professor Guidoni says, missed the real point of the masterpiece. It was a codified representation of Lorenzo's ambitious, and abortive, plan for unifying Italy through a network of alliances between the warring city states. Lorenzo had thus anticipated Garibaldi's struggle to unite Italy by almost 400 years.
Professor Guidoni said that there was general agreement that the flower-strewn orchard that formed the backdrop of Primavera (spring) represented the glittering Medici court at Florence. There was also little doubt that the central maternal figure stood either for Venus or the Virgin Mary, or both.
The eight other figures had been variously taken to symbolise the months of the year, the liberal arts or characters from Greek or Roman myths, from Mercury on the left of the picture to Zephyr, the wind, on the right. "In reality they have nothing to do with the seasons, literature or myths, and everything to do with war, peace and geopolitical strategy," Professor Guidoni said.
Botticelli had hidden the painting's meaning because Lorenzo was constructing his network of Italian alliances in secret at the time. "What we are looking at is an allegory of peaceful coexistence between the most important Italian cities of the time, linked by secret agreements, with Medici Florence at the