Art Gallery: Sacred Paintings

Botticelli, Primavera

Primavera (1478)

by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Botticelli, Primavera
Sandro Botticelli's Primavera (1478) represents the domain of Venus. Zephyr, the West Wind, transforms his bride, the nymph Chloris, into Flora, spring itself (Primavera). Her flowers bloom in April, the month of Venus, the goddess of beauty and fertility. Cupid is the procreative spirit, born of Venus and Mercury. The Three Graces— Beauty, Chastity, and Pleasure are associated with Venus as nature deities. The Primavera portrays the Platonic cycle from the active to the contemplative life, from the temporal to the eternal. The painting may be read from right to left in an arc— the descent of Zephyr embracing Flora (carnal love) to Cupid & Venus (emotional passion), to the three dancing Graces (intellectual sublimation). Cupid aims his arrow at Chastity's breast, but she has her back turned to the world, her gaze toward Mercury, who points his winged caduceus to the clouds (spiritual contemplation). The British poet Shelley is familiar with the Platonic tradition through Thomas Taylor's translation of Plato (1804). Shelley concludes his Ode to the West Wind— (1820): "The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"— a poet's summoning of divine inspiration.

© Peter Y. Chou

Visit our Poetry Gallery: "Entering the Primavera"

Mu Ch'i, Persimmons
Six Persimmons (1270)
by Mu Ch'i (1200-1274), Ryoko-in, Daitoku-ji, Kyoto

The Persimmons: a Painting in a Poem
by Peter Y. Chou

In his poem "The Persimmons," Gary Snyder goes "deep in the dark of a tomb" and emerges with a persimmon ripe to the bottom... one of a group... that might have been drawn by Mu Ch'i." Here the poem rises beyond space-time to the realm of the spirit. Mu Ch'i, a Buddhist monk from Szechwan excelled in painting wild geese. His Kwan-Yin triptych with "Crane" & "Monkey" (1245) at the Daitoku-ji, is considered by many as the greatest masterpiece of Chinese painting. However at the Daitoku-ji, Mu Ch'i's small ink painting Six Persimmons is even more revered by Zen masters. The six persimmons may symbolize the stages of enlightenment as well as the creative process or mental states of Mu Ch'i when he worked on the painting. Snyder may even have composed his poem with the painting in mind. Exploring these possibilities, let's compare Snyder's poem with Mu Ch'i's painting:

Mind of Mu Ch'i "Six Persimmons" Painting Snyder's "Persimmons" Poem
(1) Darkness of
Deep Sleep—;

(2) Twilight
of Dreams—;

(3) Daylight of

(4) Satori, or
Buddha Mind—;

(1) Two black persimmons:
from the dark void or
emptiness to manifestation
(brush full of ink)

(2)Two gray persimmons:
from total darkness to
the world of shades
(some ink on brush)

(3)Two white persimmons:
from the world of shades
to purity or illumined
awareness of unity
(almost no ink on brush)

(4) Painting's background:
the canvas where the
black, gray, & white
persimmons rest.
(no ink & no brush)

(1) Seven years of patience
while the persimmon tree
incubates her fruit. Also
"deep... dark... tomb"

(2)"The persimmons are
flowing... glowing...
ripening..." Also "some
light left from summer"

(3) the ripe persimmon
ready to be eaten.
When absorbed, the
fruit and I are one.
"The old man laughing"

(4) The blank sheet of
paper, where the poem
is printed; emptiness
as substratum for form.
"The trees that prevail"

| Top of Page | Book Gallery | Poetry Gallery | Computer Graphics | Web Linkings | Art&Spirit | Wisdom Portal |

© Peter Y. Chou— All rights reserved. (3-21-96)