Artibus et Historiae no. 85 (XLIII)

2022, ISSN 0391-9064

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LUBA FREEDMAN - Sandro Botticelli’s Cupid in Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco’s Anteroom (pp. 9–49)

The present study of Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, based on the recent explorations of Simone C. Ebert about its location in the anteroom of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco di Lorenzo de’ Medici (1463–1503), offers a new interpretation of Cupid’s flaming arrow. Its message was clear to the opponents of Lorenzo di Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici (1449–1492), when, in the early 1480s, they cherished hopes that the cadet branch will replace the current dominion. As the commission of the Primavera has been calculated to be done in the springtime of 1484, so the political situation in Florence and hopes of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco are delineated from this perspective, for it is possible to look at the events from hindsight as well.

The painting is perceived as an object that was meant to be viewed di sotto in sù, engaging its owner. From this perspective Cupid is seen as energetically flying into the anteroom rather than just hovering over Venus, and his interactions with Mercury and the trio of Graces are set in new light. Displayed in the anteroom of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco’s ground floor quarters in the casa vecchia (not extant today), the Primavera contains several quotations from works by the Medici artists, like Donatello (David, Judith and Holofernes, and Amor-Pantheos) and Benozzo Gozzoli (especially The Procession of the Young Magus). Moreover, displayed opposite to the entrance into the shared garden with orange trees, Botticelli’s Primavera responded to Lorenzo’s desire to remind his visitors about his connection with the ruling branch of the Medici family and to covertly express his hopes to supplant them with his progeny, about which the childlike Cupid served as the constant memento. The study highlights Botticelli’s innovations in the depiction of this overly familiar and therefore neglected figure.

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