April and Venus Verticordia

Apr 3rd, 2017 | author Antonella Bazzoli | posted in Discoveries, Women in History, Zoom

The female protagonist of the doble scene of April, carved by Giovanni and Nicola Pisano in the lower basin of the Main Fountain of Perugia, holds a floral wreath and a bouquet of flowers in her hands.
There is no doubt of her identity as uxor (wife in Latin), as it’s clearly written in stone, in Latin letters, above the respective scenes that belongs to the famous medieval cycle of the twelve months.
The wife stands on the left side of her husband. He looks as an elegant man who carries a garland on his head and holds a flowered branch in his left hand.

Their noble and composed posture seems to suggest that the two figures are participating in a ceremony, and I think that the doble scene could represent the cerimony of their wedding. I think so because the young woman looks like an elegant bride, and also because in the Middle Ages the month of April was one of the favourite months to get married, representing the arrival of spring and the renewal of nature.

In the Roman religious calendar of ancient Rome there was a festival named Veneralia that was held April 1 ( the first day of each month was named Kalends ) in honor of Venus Verticordia, the Roman goddess of love and beauty who could change the human hearts
We know from the poet Ovid, that in the first day of April women celebrated Venus with the title Verticordia, an adjective which means literally “she who turns hearts” .
The sacred rituals to honor the goddess are described in the Book IV of the Fasti: “Perform the rites of the goddess, Roman brides and mothers, and you who must not wear the headbands and long robes. Remove the golden necklaces from her marble neck. Remove her riches: the goddess must be cleansed, complete… Now she’s given fresh flowers, and new-sprung roses. She commands you too to bathe, under the green myrtle…

After having washed the statue of Venus and themselves, the Roman virgins and young brides garlanded with myrtle and offered their flowers to the goddess of love and beauty. Then the devotees drank the “cocetum“, a drink of milk mixed with bean honey and ground poppy flower, that lead them into a deep stupor.

The allegory of Perugia is a lady holding a cornucopia

In the upper basin of the Main Fountain of  Perugia, directly in correspondence with the twined scene showing the scene of April, we can see another work of art carbed by Giovanni and Nicola Pisano: the personification of Perugia, an elegant matrona who symbolically holds a plentiful cornucopia (symbol of power and abundance). This attribute is also associated with the Roman Fortune (corresponding to the Greek Tyche, often depicted wearing a turreted crown symbolizing the citywalls she protected), a deity who was celebrated in the religious Roman calendar along with Venus on the first day of April!

The upper basin of the Main Fountain in Perugia

Antonella Bazzoli – April 2017
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