• BOTTICELLI, Sandro
        (c. 1445-1510)


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        Painter


      • Sandro Botticelli, born Alessandro Filipepi

        Born in Florence, Botticelli lived at the time of the city's greatest intellectual and artistic flowering, which coincides roughly with the reign of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92). He was trained or influenced by Fra Filippo Lippi and by the two Pollaiuolo brothers. In 1470 he painted the figure Fortitude, one of 7 'Virtues', commissioned from P. Pollaiuolo. Another teacher of influence was unquestionably Verrocchio. Thus Botticelli was prepared for his career by those masters who represented all that was most vital in Florentine painting. To this he brought a rare talent for draughtsmanship and a very unusual temperament.

        19th-century writers on art have been responsible for creating an almost legendary figure, making Botticelli the embodiment of the Renaissance painter: in fact, he was by no means typical. The picture of Botticelli as a lyrical painter, bringing back to life the myths of the Golden Age of Greece must also be modified. It relies on those paintings Botticelli was commissioned to paint by patrons such as Lorenzo the Magnificent, and his cousin, Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de' Medici who set the subjects from Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino and classical authors, and who restrained Botticelli's natural temperament. The most famous of these paintings of classical myths are The Birth of Venus, the Primavera, Pallas Subduing a Centaur and Venus and Mars. Thoughtful, but serene, they have coloured men's ideas about classical antiquity since they were painted. With the madonnas and such large works as The Adoration of the Magi, they are the best known of Botticelli's works. Botticelli probably reveals himself more fully, however, in such paintings as The Calumny of Apelles, another classical subject, where the story from Lucian is told with effects that are strained to the point of frenzy. The drawn and troubled figure of the Baptist in the St Barnahas Altarpiece is obviously close in feeling to similar figures by A. Castagno, but there is something about it which disturbs the serenity of the whole picture. Such elements are even more pronounced in the Deposition and in the same subject in the Alte Pina., Munich. We know that when Savonarola proclaimed his religious crusade against the vanities of Renaissance Florence at the end of Botticelli's life, Botticelli became one of his followers. Very little is certain about his life that is not based upon Vasari, but it seems likely that in the Mystic Nativity which is dated 1500/1501, and which has an inscription referring to the Apocalypse and the 'troubles of Italy', the reconciliation between the angels and the fallen angels at the birth of Christ gives a significant clue to the divisions in Botticelli's own personality.

        However great his inner turmoil, his life seems to have been relatively tranquil for the times. He won early recognition for his talent. Between 1481 and 1482 he was in Rome painting frescoes in the Sistine Chapel with a number of the leading painters. Vasari claims that he lost much of the reputation he had built up after this by taking time from painting to illustrate Dante. These drawings show an incredible gift for draughtmanship (Beatrice and Dante in Paradise). Botticelli was prosperous enough by the end of the century to be running a large workshop, but with the revolutions in painting brought about by Leonardo and Michelangelo, and his own ill-health in old age, Botticelli's popularity appears to have diminished. After his death he was often forged but seldom imitated.


      • Source: The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists (World of Art)

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