Primavera (c1482). Tempera on panel. 203 x 314. Primavera is a large panel painting in tempera paint by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli made in the late 1470s or early 1480s. It has been described as one of the most written about, and most controversial paintings in the world, and also one of the most popular paintings in Western art. The painting depicts a group of figures from classical mythology in a garden, but no story has been found that brings this particular group together. Most critics agree that the painting is an allegory based on the lush growth of Spring, but accounts of any precise meaning vary, though many involve the Renaissance Neoplatonism which then fascinated intellectual circles in Florence. The subject was first described as Primavera by the art historian Giorgio Vasari who saw it at Villa Castello, just outside Florence, by 1550. Although the two are now known not to be a pair, the painting is inevitably discussed with Botticelli's other very large mythological painting, The Birth of Venus, also in the Uffizi. They are among the most famous paintings in the world, and icons of the Italian Renaissance; of the two, the Birth is even better known than the Primavera. As depictions of subjects from classical mythology on a very large scale they were virtually unprecedented in Western art since classical antiquity. It used to be thought that they were both commissioned by the same member of the Medici family, but this is now uncertain. The history of the painting is not certainly known, though it seems to have been commissioned by one of the Medici family. It draws from a number of classical and Renaissance literary sources, including the works of the Ancient Roman poet Ovid and, less certainly, Lucretius, and may also allude to a poem by Poliziano, the Medici house poet who may have helped Botticelli devise the composition. Since 1919 the painting has been part of the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The painting features six female figures and two male, along with a cupid, in an orange grove. The movement of the composition is from right to left, so following that direction the standard identification of the figures is: at far right Zephyrus, the biting wind of March, kidnaps and possesses the nymph Chloris, whom he later marries and transforms into a deity; she becomes the goddess of Spring, eternal bearer of life, and is scattering roses on the ground. Chloris the nymph overlaps Flora, the goddess she transforms into. In the centre and somewhat set back from the other figures stands Venus, a red-draped woman in blue. Like the flower-gatherer, she returns the viewer's gaze. The trees behind her form a broken arch to draw the eye. In the air above her a blindfolded Cupid aims his bow to the left. On the left of the painting the Three Graces, a group of three females also in diaphanous white, join hands in a dance. At the extreme left Mercury, clothed in red with a sword and a helmet, raises his caduceus or wooden rod towards some wispy gray clouds. The interactions between the figures are enigmatic. Zephyrus and Chloris are looking at each other. Flora and Venus look out at the viewer, the Cupid is blindfolded, and Mercury has turned his back on the others, and looks up at the clouds. The central Grace looks towards him, while the other two seem to look at each other. Flora's smile was very unusual in painting at this date. The pastoral scenery is elaborate. There are 500 identified plant species depicted in the painting, with about 190 different flowers, of which at least 130 can be specifically identified. The overall appearance, and size, of the painting is similar to that of the millefleur Flemish tapestries that were popular decorations for palaces at the time. These tapestries had not caught up by the 1480s with the artistic developments of the Italian Renaissance, and the composition of the painting has aspects that belong to this still Gothic style. The figures are spread in a rough line across the front of the picture space,set side by side like pearls on a string. It is now known that in the setting for which the painting was designed the bottom was about at eye level, or slightly above it, partly explaining the gently rising plane on which the figures stand. The feet of Venus are considerably higher than those of the others, showing she is behind them, but she is at the same scale, if not larger, than the other figures. Overlapping of other figures by Mercury's sword and Chloris' hands shows that they stand slightly in front of the left Grace and Flora respectively, which might not be obvious otherwise, for example from their feet. It has been argued that the flowers do not grow smaller to the rear of the picture space, certainly a feature of the millefleur tapestries.