La Primavera

What masque of what old wind-withered New-Year
Honours this Lady? Flora, wanton-eyed
For birth, and with all flowrets prankt and pied:
Aurora, Zephyrus, with mutual cheer
Of clasp and kiss: the Graces circling near,
‘Neath bower-linked arch of white arms glorified:
And with those feathered feet which hovering glide
O’er Spring’s brief bloom, Hermes the harbinger.
Birth-bare, not death-bare yet, the young stems stand
This Lady’s temple-columns: o’er her head
Love wings his shaft. What mystery here is read
Of homage or of hope? But how command
Dead Springs to answer? And how question here
These mummers of that wind-withered New-Year?

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Rossetti purchased Botticelli’s Portrait of a Lady (c1471, V&A, London) in 1865. After boasting he paid only £20 for the work, it seems Rossetti wove a series of links into the poem above to elevate the reception of the painting. In the line ‘Honours this Lady?’ Rossetti is making suggestions that the model, Esmeralda Brandini, was also the model in Botticelli’s, Primavera (Uffizi, Italy). This is no longer thought to be the case. What is interesting to note is the similarity of posture which becomes assimilated into his own visual works, e.g. Rossetti’s, La Donna Della Finestra (1879, Fogg Museum, USA).

Portrait of a Lady
Botticelli, Portrait of a Lady, Smeralda Brandini (1471, V&a)