Sandro Botticell, Birth of Venus 1884 -1486 tempera on wood, 72 3/4 X 112 1/2 in. Uffzi, Florence
Sandro Botticelli Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, Florence 1445 1510
A leading exponent of Florentine art at the last quarter of the fifteenth century, Botticelli is famous, above all, for his works commissioned by the Medici family and particularly for his large profane allegories. These reflect the tastes, of the cultural climate, and refined return to classicism of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Neoplatonic Florentine culture. This was the sophisticated, refined erudite, and serene period of the Italian Renaissance. During the life of Botticelli came in to close contact with other Florentine artists, and his training began in the workshop of Filippo Lippi, in the 1460's. When the latter moved to Spoleto in 1466. Botticelli became an assistant to Verrocchio, and thus came to know the master's other young pupils, including Perugino and Leonardo. The recurrent subject if Botticelli's early works was the Madonna and Child, which he repeated in numerous versions. In 1470 he painted the allegorical work Fortitude as part of a cycle of Virtues executed by Piero Pollaiolo (Uffizi, Florence). In 1472 he and his pupil Filippino Lippi were enrolled in the Florentine Painters' Guild. A series of portraits of the Medici made Botticelli the ruling family's favorite artist, as is demonstrated by the commission he received in 1475 for the great Adoration of the Magi, now in the Uffizi. In 1477 the so-called Spring marked the beginning of the cycle of great mythological allegories, probably painted for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici (a cousin of Lorenzo the Magnificent), the first great paintings on profane subjects drawn from classical antiquity. Regarded as one of the leading masters, Botticelli was summoned to Rome in 1482 and involved in the task of decorating the walls of the Sistine Chapel. He returned to Florence as the favorite painter of Lorenzo the Magnificent. For a decade Botticelli produced frescoes and altarpieces, as well as religious and secular paintings, that marked the end of the experimental stage of Humanism and the development of an extremely linear approach. In 1492 the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent and the moral revolution brought about by Savonarola had a striking effect on Botticelli's style. He used pale colors, his compositions became taut and dramatic, and an intense mysticism reappeared in the choice of subjects. This period of spiritual turmoil saw the artist's last masterpieces, produced on the eve of the new century, which almost anticipate Mannerism.
About the Author
Sefano Zuffi is the Italian art historian and the author of many articles and more than 30 books on art and artists. He has also written la Guida et Musei di Venezia (the guidebook for the Venice Museum). His major biography of the Venetian painter Titian was recently published in Italy. He is author of the commentaries accompanying three fine art volumes published in English by Barrons: Baroque Painting. Modern Painting, and Renaissance Painting.