Please join us for dinner!
We’re at dad’s country house, Villa di Castello, which is about 20km East of Baroncelli Villa. It’s a not too strenuous ride or walk of about 4 hours from The Baroncelli to Villa di Castello, and I hope you’ll consider joining us for dinner. We’re here to celebrate the Vernal Equinox and how lucky we are to have Sandro Botticelli’s masterpiece of Spring, La Primavera here to help us do it. Actually, Botticelli never gave the painting a name, but dad’s favourite artist, architect, and now at dad’s behest, author too, of his lives of the artists tome Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects) Giorgio Vasari, has named it La Primavera. Like everything else Vasari does, the name couldn’t be more perfect.
To be sure this painting is a celebration of spring and a celebration of fertility and new growth and blossoming possibilities. I’ve just started to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s wonderful book Dancing in the Streets: a history of collective joy, and now it’s hard to not see this Botticelli in light of Ehrenreich’s ideas. I think all Renaissance artists have straddled The Church and The Secular, but perhaps none more so, and more daringly so, than Botticelli. I am thankful that he, and his masterpieces, survived the dreadful Savonarola years, even if I’m not quite certain how he did survive!
In the 1/4 of Ehrenreich’s book that I’ve read so far she really pits dance and ecstatic dance against organized religion and Western intellect (and, you know, stuff like Medici Double-Entry Accounting) She sees Christ as very much engaged in trance and religious ecstasy, but that on it’s way to becoming a multi-national corporation the church had to purge those egalitarian anybody can find god anytime qualities in favor of the regulated dispensing of spirituality by the clergy. Just as the sumptuous meals of early Christian service were replaced with that damn tiny cracker of an appetizer.
When I look at Botticelli’s Primavera I see ecstatic dance. Ehrenreich talks a lot about unbound, flying hair, which we don’t see too much of here. But remember that Botticelli was making at least a minor effort to not get excommunicated or burned for heresy! And the women’s garments do have the free flow that their mostly bound hair doesn’t quite show. In this simple painting I really see the power, or at least a suggestion of the power, of ecstatic dance. The church can’t control people, nor can men control women, who are in a state of deep spiritual trance. I believe this is why dance, so natural in all early cultures and small organizations, comes to be so feared and hated by large organizations.
I’m quite certain we dance more here in Florence than they do in, uggh, Rome!