trained or influenced by Fra Filippo Lippi and by the two Pollaiuolo
brothers. In 1470 he painted the figure Fortitude, one of the seven
'Virtues', commissioned from P. Pollaiuolo. Another teacher of
influence was unquestionably Verrocchio. Thus Bottecelli 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.
Nineteenth century writers on art have been responsible for creating
an almost legendary figure, making Bottecelli the embodiment of the
Renaissance painter: in fact, he was by no means typical. The
picture of Bottecelli 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 Bottecelli 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 Bottecelli'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 Bttecelli's works. Bottecelli 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 Barnabas 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.
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). Bottecelli 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, Bottecelli's popularity appears to have
diminished. After his death he was often forged but seldom imitated.