Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Elizabeth McCahill

Second Advisor

Malcolm Smuts

Third Advisor

Sarah Ross


This thesis examines how Florentine humanism influenced Botticelli's painting La Primavera. There have been many interpretations of its programme, however, these interpretations have taken a narrow view of the influences surrounding Botticelli and the possibilities of human genius and creativity. This thesis will expand the understanding of La Primavera by examining the multiple interests of Botticelli's patrons, the Medicis, the intellectuals surrounding Lorenzo de' Medici, and the nature of the relationship between artists and patrons.

Marsilio Ficino and Leon Battista Alberti, two important people in Lorenzo's circle, who greatly influenced La Primavera, will be examined along with their work. Ficino's medical philosophy will be examined along with the Corpus Hermeticum, an Egyptian esoteric text lost to Europe by the Middle Ages. In addition, Ficino's Three Books on Life, the first medical text devoted to the health of intellectuals, and his letters will be examined to show how Ficino incorporated Hermeticism and natural magic into his philosophy. Alberti's book On Painting, a painting manual, changed the nature of Renaissance painting by elevating art to the level of the humanities and rhetoric. His advice will be examined along with the Medici's patronage and Ficino's philosophy to find consistency within their mutual artistic ideals. The figures and symbols in La Primavera are closely studied to determine how they manifest Ficino's philosophy and the main Hermetic concepts of god, the soul, rebirth/motion, and intellect. Additionally, they will be compared to Ficino's medical, theological, and magical philosophy.

It is clear that Botticelli's painting was a dynamic and complex effort between the artist, patron, and intellectuals, who were particularly interested in transforming art into rhetoric and creating art which would facilitate further understanding of god and the role of the intellect in this. Natural magic plays a predominate role in the painting through the use of certain astrological energies seen through the figures of the gods and goddesses and the symbolism present. La Primavera is a tool to transport one's mind into a perpetual Hermetic process of rebirth, intellectual discourse, and unity with god, allowing more than one approach to the painting, contrary to previous beliefs.


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