Sandro Botticelli


He belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici, a movement that Giorgio Vasari would characterize less than a hundred years later in his Vita of Botticelli as a “golden age”. Botticelli’s posthumous reputation suffered until the late 19th century, since then, his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting.

Sandro Botticelli was born in Florence as the fourth son of spouses Mariano and Esmeralda Filipepi. Ognissanti, the place where the Filipepi family lived was a part of Florence on the river Arno, a district inhabited mainly by craftsmen. Mariano Filipepi was a tanner and the nickname of Sandro’s eldest brothers being “Botticello” (“barrel”), hence the name of the painter. One of his brothers, Antonio, was a goldsmith and engraver, and young Sandro acquired his first drawing knowledge under his supervision.

By 1467-1468, he attends to the workshop of Florentine sculptor and painter, Andrea del Verrocchio. It is the period when he executed his first independent works (“Madonna and Child” in 1469).

He was barely 25 years old when, in 1470, he opened his own workshop. Soon, Filippino Lippi, Fra Filippo Lippi’s son became his pupil. That same year, the City’s Comercial Council orders him a painting, which depicts an allegory of force. After two more years, his name also figured in Saint Luke’s association registry, which brought together painters from Florence.

Like all great masters of the Italian Renaissance, Botticelli processed the theme of “Annunciation”. But compared with other paintings, for example of Fra Angelico, the idyllic atmosphere and the acceptance with humility of God’s will disappear and it reflects a peculiar tension, which illustrates the emotional burdern of the scene of the divine message transmission through the Archangel Gabriel. The dramatic message of the painting “Lamentation over the Dead Christ” reflects the asceticism and moral rigor of Savonarola’s preaching.

“Spring” is a fine and complex opera, radiating beauty and grace. Venus is the central figure around which are clustered the other characters: Spring scattering flowers, beside her are the Flora and Zephyr, to the left there are the Three Graces and the god Mercury with the caduceus, and Cupid above them. The viewer has the impression that the pictorial space is a theater stage, very popular in the Renaissance.

The painting “The Birth of Venus”, one of the most famous paintings in art history, was commissioned by Lorenzo and Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de Medici for their villa from Castello. In this masterpiece, Botticelli paid much attention to the movement caused by wind, the goddess’ hair cascade, that have arisen from the waves of the sea is loosened by the wind and ends in soft fraying. The opal body of the goddess Venus, with the turquoise sea and blue sky in the background, is highlighted with open tone, subtly differentiated, similar to gold.

The theme of the painting “Venus and Mars” was probably taken from the astrological doctrine of humanist Marsilio Ficino, in which he analyzes the relantionship of harmony and contrast that occur between the stars. Venus is the goddess of love and harmony, while Mars is the god of war.

The works of Botticelli have lost in popularity in the last years of his life, being pushed into the background by the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael Sanzio and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The creation of the great Florentine master, forgotten at the beginning of the 16th century, was rediscovered decades later, when the style known as Mannerism developed. British painters of the 19th century, the Pre-Raphaelites, will be enthralled by the beauty of Botticelli’s figures. They were fascinated by the anxiety and melancholy of the figures that they will enrich in their own works with the romanticism characteristic of their time.

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