Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)

His real name was Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi and he was one of the most important painters of Italian early Renaissance.

Botticelli- Portrait


About His Life

He was born in Florence into a modest family, the last and most fragile of 4 brothers. One of his brothers was a goldsmith and he started to grow up in his shop and there he took the nickname of “Botticelli”; but the real apprenticeship as a painter was with Filippo Lippi. In his studio, Botticelli made many paintings of Madonnas, the first was “The Madonna with child and an angel”. He worked the biggest part of his life for Medici’s family and he also went to Rome to make some painted scenes for The Sistine Chapel.

In the last years of 1490 he went through a difficult period, a mystical crisis, influenced by the “burning of truth” of the friar Savonarola; so “The slander” (1490 -1495) is the testimony of the stylistic transition between the two phases. He died in 1510 at the age of 65.

Sandro Botticelli- The Slander. The Calumny of Apelles
Galleria degli Uffizi,Florence, Tuscany, Italy
La Calunnia, 1495 ca, tempera on wood

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His Style

Botticelli’s style knows many changes, but nevertheless there are some traits that make him recognizable. In his paintings, he enhances the elegance of forms and their feelings, paintings characterized by linearism, lyricism, symmetrical compositions and his figures of timeless beauty are a little be melancholic. In the style of the last years, he is influenced by Savonarola and his mystical crisis is also present in the paintings; in fact, the subjects are more introspective and exclusively religious and he uses a lot of archaicisms such as the gold background and hierarchical proportions.

Botticelli- Madonna and Child with Two Angels

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Rome: The Sistine Chapel

In 1480 he arrived in Rome along with other many artists, by the will of Sixtus IV, to create a cycle of 10 episodes from the life of Christ and of Moses, for the Sistine Chapel. In this work Botticelli had some difficulties painting on the large surface area, for this reason, the only scenes attributed to him are three: the Trials of Moses, the Trials of Christ, and the Punishment of Qorah, Dathan, and Abiram. Later, before the death of his father, he is forced to return to Florence and will never return to Rome.

Botticelli- Three Temptations of Christ.
1481-82- Fresco, 345 x 555 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

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Main Works

Working for the Medici family he made many works, including portraits of the Medici family, like Cosimo the Elder and his sons, and his most important paintings such as:

  • The Adoration of the Magi (1475)
  • The series of Nastagio degli Onesti (1483), taken from the Decameron
  • Pallas taming the Centaur (1482-1484)
  • The most famous: the Spring commissioned by Lorenzo de Medici and the Birth of Venus, commissioned by Pierfrancesco de Medici. (1477-1485)
Botticelli- Primavera (The Spring)- late 1470s or early 1480s
Uffizi Gallery, Florence

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The Spring takes place in a small orange forest; the painting can be read from right to left. There are 9 characters arranged symmetrically on a flowered meadow and 138 different plant species, accurately depicted by Botticelli. The attention to detail confirms the painter’s commitment to this work. In the picture, Zafiro, the north wind, falls in love with the nymph Clori and for this he kidnaps her. From their union, she is reborn as Flora, the woman with the splendid flowery dress. In the center, there is Venus who directs the events, and above her, Cupid, Venus’s son, while on the left three Graces dancing harmoniously. The Spring’s interpretation presents several levels. Mythological, philosophical (Neo-platonic academy) and historical: the marriage between Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de ‘Medici and Semiramide Appiani.

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