(Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, Penguin Books, 1967)
Imagine a course which combines, in an imaginative manner, philosophy, art history, literature and a lot of discussions about how to see and understand famous painting. Imagine looking at beautiful paintings — by Boticelli, Raphael and Pierro della Francesca – and learning how to look and what to search for in them.
Take, for example, Boticelli’s Primavera, one of the most celebrated paintings of all time. How shall we look at it? What is the relation between the various groups of figures represented in the painting? There are two “triads” represented on canvas: on the left, the three graces engaged in a seraphic dance. On the right hand side, another dynamic group of three figures: Zephyr, the nymph Chloris, and Flora, the goddess of the spring. In the center, still, quiet (and fully dressed) Venus, more like a “goddess of moderation,” than like the figure we all know (from other Renaissance’s paintings). Above all, Cupid, caught in flight, points his arrow to the dance of the graces. How are we to “read” this strikingly dynamic painting? What do we need to decipher the complex and eclectic mixture of symbols? Continue reading The poetic veil: fables, philosophy and the shaping of the Renaissance