The vernal equinox (near March 21) marks the first day of the season of spring. It is the date when night and day are nearly the same length and the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving northward. Delighting in the approach of Spring, I begin to plan for my garden and an incredible journey of discovery unfolds. Amidst my collection of Florida plant books, I find a book of Botticelli paintings. His La Primavera (also called the Allegory of Spring – tempera on panel, 80 x 123 1/2″ held at the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence, Italy), so glorious to behold, reminds me once again how the language of flowers is present in so many famous paintings.
Leonardo, for example, inscribed, “Virtue Adorns Beauty” on the back of his portrait of Ginevra de Benci (Ginevra means ‘Juniper’ which stands for virtue, plus in the original drawing Ginevra holds a Juniper branch in her hands). And, in the two paintings by Botticelli that have inspired me once again, we see Botticelli profess that ‘Pure Love is Victorious’ by including Laurel, Myrtle, Cornflowers and Roses in both paintings. Now, keep in mind that nowhere was this proclamation stated except in the very meaning of the flora subjects that highlights his work. Careful analysis of the paintings will show the temporal Venus in Birth of Spring becomes the sacred Venus mistress of all Gods and Goddesses in Primavera. In the first, Grace comes to Venus in a dress adorned with Cornflowers. She is the symbol of hope and faith and is about to adorn Venus in a robe of flowers and fruit. Soon to be the Venus Flora and Pomona, Goddess of Love and Beauty, in a setting of Laurel (proclamation of victory) and Myrtle (symbol of love and fidelity), Grace brings a message that Pure Love is Victorious. But, because the cape is not draped and because Grace is wearing a dress of Cornflowers, we might conclude that the message is not a proclamation, but rather a message of hope. It is a prayer for the constancy of pure love. In the second painting, Primavera, the sacred Venus standing central focus again, is now patron saint of forces and elements; and adorned with the gifts of Grace, she stands ready to triumph over the four seasons.
In other words, in Genesis 1, verse four, when God first approves of creation and divides light from darkness, God establishes cycles, an ever-changing sameness and Botticelli conveys one of the great themes of the natural world through mythology, theology, and the language of flowers.
So, what are you planting in your garden or painting in your studio. Come join me at Selby Garden’s in April. Our workshop will be a Language of Flower journey as we discover the colors of Chagall.
Happy Spring. God bless. OM
And God saw the light, that it was good:
and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:4
To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.
Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson