Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510 BACK

Bottecelli was 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.

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Image List

Virgin and Child with Two Angels and St John the Baptist, 1465

Virgin and Child with Angel, 1465

Virgin and Child with an Angel, 1470

Man Holding a Medal, 1473

Allegory of Abundance, 1480

The Punishment of Korah, 1481

Primavera, 1482

Venus and Mars, 1483

Birth of Venus, 1485

The Annunciation, 1489

Portrait of a Young Man, 1489

Lorenzo di Ser Piero Lorenzi, 1495

The Lamentation over the Dead, 1495

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