Featured Artist of the week Sandro Botticelli

Born Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepe in 1445 Botticelli lived his entire life in the same neighbourhood in Florence Italy. Botticelli was one of several children and the youngest of his four siblings to survive into adulthood. In 1460 Botticelli´s father stopped his business as a tanner and became a gold beater with his son Antonio. His fathers new profession brought the family in contact with many artists. George Vasari reported that Botticelli was trained as a goldsmith in his earlier years. In the year of 1464 his father bought a house in the nearby Via Nuova now called the Via Della Porcellana where Botticelli would live until his death in 1510. It is recorded that Botticelli both lived and worked from his home which was unusual for the time.

The nickname Botticelli meaning little barrell came from his brother due to his round stature. A document in 1470 refers to Sandro as Sandro Mariano Botticelli showing that he had fully adopted the name. From around the years of 1461 or 1462 Botticelli was the apprentice to Fra Filippo Lippi. Fra Filippo Lippi was one of the leading painters and a favorite of the Medici family. It is from Lippi that Botticelli learned to create such intimate and beautiful compositions with such vivid melancholic figures painted with clear contours and a contrast of light and shadows that it mind blowing. It is speculated but can not be proven that Botticelli spend time working with the Pollaiuolo brothers and Andrea del Verrocchio. However we can see that regardless if he spent time working in their workshops they had a strong impact on the young artists development.

Lippi died in 1469 and it is said that surely Botticelli had his own workshop by then. In June of 1469 Botticelli was commissioned to paint the panel of Fortitude to accompany a set of all seven virtues commissioned one year earlier from Piero del Pollaiuolo. Botticellis panel adopts the format of Piero but he added more elegance and a more naturally posed figure. He also added an array of more fanciful enrichments , some believe it was added to show up Piero´s poverty of ornamental invention.

In 1472 Botticelli took on his first apprentice the younf Filippino Lippi, son of Botticelli´s master. Botticelli and young Filippino did many amazing works together including many Madonna and child paintings.

Photo by AKA Naturalista

Botticelli´s earliest surviving altarpiece is a large Sacra Conersazione which is now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence Italy. Another work from this period is the Saint Sebastian which is now in Berlin and was painted in 1474 The delicate winter landscape, referring to Saint feasts day in January was inspired by the Netherlandish paintings widely appreciated in Florentine circles.

Paintings of the Madonna and child were enormously popular in the 15th century in the 15th century Italy in a range of styles and formats. Botticelli painted Madonnas from the start of his career until at least the 1490´s. He is one of the first painters to use the round tondo format. This format was more associated with paintings for palaces then churches. Some of these paintings where later donated to churches.

Photo by AKA Naturalista

Botticelli´s life seems to be full of mystery and intrigue. According to Vasari, Botticelli earned a great deal of money. However it it said that he wasted it all through carelessness and lack of management. His sexuality too was a great mystery to all those that surrounded him at the time up until now. Botticelli never married it was said that he was quoted to say that ¨ He was not a fit ground for planting vines.¨ A patron of Botticelli named Tommaso Soderini was recorded to suggest that Botticelli marry, He replied by saying that a few days before he had dreamed that he had married and woke up struck with grief. He was so upset by the dream he spent the rest of the night walking the streets to avoid the dream from resuming.

photo by AKA Naturalista

There has been over a century of speculation that Botticelli was homosexual. Many writers say that they can observe homo eroticism in his portraits. In 1938 Jacques Mesnil discovered a document that was a summary of a charge in the Florentine archives for November 16, 1502. The accusation simply reads¨ Botticelli keeps a boy¨ an accusation of sodomy in that time. No prosecution was brought. Art historian Scott Nethersole has suggested that over a quarter of Florentine men were the subject to similar accusations. They seemed to be the way to get back at people during that time. Botticelli had a platonic friendship with Simonetta Vespucci and was buried at the foot of her tomb in the Ognissanti, the church of the Vespucci family as well as Botticelli in Florence.

Botticelli started to illustrate drawings for Dante´s Divine Comedy which consists of 100 cantos with space left for one engraving for each Canto. However only 19 illustrations were engraved, and most copies of the book only have 2 or 3 printed on the books pages. Yet once again Botticelli did not finish his work even at the drawing stage. Some of the cantos that appeared to have been at least drawn are now missing, The pages that did survive have always been greatly admired and discussed by many in great detail.

In 1490 Botticelli became a follower of Savonarola´s who preached in Florence from 1490 to 1498 when he was exicuted. It was said to be a deeply moralistic. Since he began to follow Savonrola´s Botticelli gave up his passion of painting. He fell into considerable distress as he had no other source of income. Regardless of his financial strain Botticelli remained a loyal follower of the sect. Even becoming one of the Piagnoni, the snivellers they where called back then. Finally to everyones dispair he was starving as an now an old man. If it had not been for Lorenzo de Medici, his friends, and others had not come to his assistance he would have surely died of hunger. There have been those who stated that Botticelli died at the age of 78 old and decrepit. With a period of time before his death when he could not sit or stand upright. He died May 1510 and was buried with his family , and at the feet of Simonetta outside of the Ognissanti Church in a spot that the new church is now built over the top of.

After his dead Botticelli and his reputation was eclipsed longer and looked into more thoroughly than any other major European artist. His paintings remained in the churches and villas in which they where created for. His frescos in the Sistine Chapel where only upstaged by the one and only Michelangelo. Botticelli has left us with both the mystery of his life and the Beauty of his art. When at the Uffizi I found myself standing before his works with tears streaming down my face. As we know Michelangelo is and has always been my favorite artist, yet here I was in front of Botticelli´s works taking in the smoothness of his colors and the pure beauty of his work. I admit it I cried, I blame my tears on the overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by Botticelli´s works. The painting that made me cry like a baby was The birth of Venus. In this works Botticelli depicts Venus being blown ever so gently into shore on a shell by a Zephyr and Cloris. It is said that in this mythical story Venus was born as a grown woman. She was concieved when the Titan Cronus castrated his father who just happened to be the God Uranus. The severed genitals fell into the sea and fertilized it. Just look at all the detail in the background and the dress Of the young women on the right who some refer to as Hora of Spring. Y´all everything about this work of Botticelli´s is pure perfection. The sweet flowers blowing as a reminder of spring and the orange trees in the background.

Which one is you´r favorite work from Botticelli and why? Please feel free to Like, Follow, and leave a comment so we can start a discussion. Thanks for reading and as always stay safe everyone.

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