Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 34: Florence, Part 14

August 1, 2023

 

Uffizi Gallery

In the 15th century, Cosimo de' Medici, a member of the Medici family who amassed wealth through banking, gained control of the Republic of Florence ( Repubblica di Firenze ).

The Republic of Florence further expanded in the 16th century and became the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (Granducato di Toscana ).

The first Grand Duke (ruler) of Tuscany was also a member of the Medici family, Cosimo I de' Medici.

Cosimo I de' Medici in the 16th century was a different person from Cosimo de' Medici in the 15th century.

Cosimo I consolidated the administration, judiciary, and legislative functions into one place, which is now known as the Uffizi Gallery.

Since this location was government district ( “Uffici“ in Italian, "offices" in English ), it is called the Uffizi Gallery.

 

1. "Primavera" (Spring) (15th century)

This is Botticelli's masterpiece.

It is filled with goddesses dancing gracefully in veils, women adorned with flowers, an orange-bearing forest, and plants at their feet.

They are all representing a hymn to spring.

Oranges, known for bearing abundant fruit, also symbolize fertility and prosperity.

 

Certainly, standing in the center and particularly conspicuous is the goddess of beauty, Venus.

On the right side, Zephyrus with wings and in blue-green color is blowing the wind calling  forth spring to the nymph Chloris.

Zephyrus is the Greek god of the west wind.

To the Greeks, the wind blowing from the west is the wind of spring that brings forth flowers and greenery.

That's why Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, is depicted in blue-green.

Zephyrus, after kidnapping Chloris, grants her the ability to make flowers bloom.

Flowers are beginning to bloom out of her mouth.

Standing next to Chloris is Flora, who ascended to divinity after Zephyrus regretted his own  crime of kidnapping her.

Flora is now the goddess of spring and flowers.

Zephyrus gave Flora a garden, heralding the arrival of "spring."

Here we can see the theory of the four elements.

Empedocles in ancient Greece believed that the world was made up of four elements (earth, water, fire, and air) and that they combined to form the appearance of the universe.

According to his interpretation, the ever-changing nature of the universe is due to two forces: the “force that binds the elements together”, namely love and the “force that separates them”, namely strife.

The theme of this artwork is that the element of "air" (wind) called forth "spring" through love.

 

Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, not only blew warm winds but also committed a terrible crime.

He had feelings for the beautiful youth Hyacinthus, who was the son of the Spartan king, as did the sun god Apollo.

In ancient Greece, adult male relationships with young boys were considered a symbol of trust and bonds, and they were valued more than love for women.

The two male gods competed for the love of the youth, but Hyacinthus chose Apollo, driving Zephyrus into a jealous rage.

One day, Zephyrus saw Apollo and Hyacinthus playing discus, then he blew a gust of wind at Apollo's thrown discus, causing it to strike the youth in the forehead.

The youth bled bright red blood and perished.

Apollo lamented his death, crying out "Accept my love and be reborn as a flower!"

Apollo's tears fell onto the grass stained with blood, and a beautiful flower bloomed.

This flower came to be known as the "hyacinth," named after the youth

This flower came to be known as the "hyacinth," named after the youth Hyacinthus.

This story has become the origin, so the flower language of the hyacinth is considered to be "love that transcends sorrow."

This is a sad but romantic myth, isn’t it?

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