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Sandro Botticelli


One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

 Florentine Renaissance Painter

Artistically and stylistically influenced by the following painters; -  Fra Fillippo, Andrea del Verrocchio, Piero della Francesca, Masaccio, and Mantegna

Education: he studied under Fra Fillippo, Andrea del Verrocchio and Pollajuolo

Cause of Death -  he died of Old Age.  In 1510 his father was sufficiently wealthy to purchase a family vault in the church of Ognissanti, where Sandro lies buried.

Mediums - fresco, oil and sometimes tempura on oak panel


Botticelli lived during troubled and restless times. The world was in transition. According to art historian Bernard Berenson  "Educated in a period of triumphant naturalism, he plunged at first into mere representation with almost self-obliterating earnestness; the pupil of Fra Filippo, he was trained to a love of spiritual genre; himself gifted with strong instincts for the significant, he was able to create such a type of the thinker as in his fresco of St. Augustin; yet in his best years he left everything, even spiritual significance, behind him, and abandoned himself to the presentation of those qualities alone which in a picture are directly life-communicating, and life-enhancing. Those of us who care for nothing in the work of art but what it represents, are either powerfully attracted or repelled by his unhackneyed types and quivering feeling; but if we are such as have an imagination of touch and of movement that it is easy to stimulate, we feel a pleasure in Botticelli that few, if any, other artists can give us. Long after we have exhausted both the intensest sympathies and 71 the most violent antipathies with which the representative elements in his pictures may have inspired us, we are only on the verge of fully appreciating his real genius. This in its happiest moments is an unparalleled power of perfectly combining values of touch with values of movement.

Look, for instance, at Botticelli’s “Venus Rising from the Sea.” Throughout, the tactile imagination is roused to a keen activity, by itself almost as life heightening as music. But the power of music is even surpassed where, as in the goddess’ mane-like tresses of hair fluttering to the wind, not in disorderly rout but in masses yielding only after resistance, the movement is directly life-communicating. The entire picture presents us with the quintessence of all that is pleasurable to our imagination of touch and of movement. "

Sandro Botticelli' s first teacher was Fra Filippo, the jolly Carmelite. After he left Florence he studied with Andrea del Verrocchio and later Pollajuolo, from whom he leered color, anatomy, and perspective.  But even his early works show that he used forms derived from his teachers to a express a sentiment quite different from theirs. In the midst of a time without spiritual tendencies, Botticelli penetrated anew the unfathomable depths of religious emotion; and among a group of realists he stands alone as a mystic enthusiast in a world apart from the rest. The joy in nature and the laughing optimism of the others he confronted, even at the time, with the solemn ecclesiasticism of the mille age, painting pictures which were a protest of a dreamy and sensitive soul against the prosaic objectivity reigning about him. The works of the older painters are sensible, sober, and clear, his are full of ecstatic emotion and dreams; a romanticism which, longing for the home of a soul, flies back to the middle age, strong in belief, and weaves about it all the charms of mysticism.

His early works, La Fortezza, a small Judith, St Sebastian and the Finding of the body of Holofernes  show how, beginning as a pupil of Pollajuolo, he nevertheless differed from him in the soft, melancholy trend of his art.  Botticelli never introduces genre subjects or jovial events, but conceives his paintings as the bearers of symbolic thoughts. 

The Annunciation by Botticelli

In Botticelli's The Madonna and Child with an Angel, 1468 (housed in Spedale degli Innocenti of Florence). The Madonna looks thoughtfully upon the crown of thorns and the nails, which the Christ-child innocently, unsuspectingly holds,  a curly haired angel offers her grapes and ears of wheat, the symbol of sacrifice. In the place of the fresh worldliness of Fra, Fillippo, Botticell's works  reveal the presence of a mystic and transcendental, a solemn and sacramental element. While the realists in their Madonna's portray the joys of motherhood, Botticelli's know no joy whatever. Mary appears gloomy and lost in thought, as if, even when she presses the Christ-child to her bosom, a foreboding of coming suffering casts its shadow over her soul. -- Richard Muther, The History of Modern Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896

 According to his biographer Giorgio Vasari, Botticelli was a bit of a carouser and squanderer  "he spent all during his Stay at Rome in his usual thoughtless way, and after finishing his section of the work he uncovered it, and straightway left for Florence. Being of a sophistical turn of mind, he there wrote a commentary on a portion of Dante and illustrated the Itiferno, which he printed, spending much time over it, and this abstension from work led to serious disorders in his living. He printed many other drawings, but in an inferior style, because the plates were badly engraved, his best work being the triumph of the faith of Fra Girolamo Savonorola of Ferrara. Of this sect he was an adherent, and this led him to abandon painting, and, as he had no income, it involved him in the most serious trouble.

As Botticelli grew older, his style underwent a significant transformation. He  became a follower of the pious friar Savonarola.  The moralistic friar considered Botticelli's  paintings blasphemous and profane. The friar encouraged Botticelli along with numerous other artists to toss their erotic paintings into the bonfire during the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities. Heaven knows how many of Botticelli's  masterpieces were lost in the flames.
Florentine historiographer Giorgio Vasari  explains how Botticelli came to a bad end." It is said that Sandro was extraordinarily fond of those whom he knew to be students of the arts, and that he made a good deal, but wasted all through his carelessness and want of control. Having become old and useless, he fell to walking with two crutches, as he could not stand straight, and in this state of decrepitude he died at the age of seventy-eight, being buried in Ognissanti in I515." Vasari might have made these disparaging remarks about Botticelli out of jealousy. Leonardo da Vinci  once said  "A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not." Bottecelli's paintings have been loved and appeciated for hundreds of years after his death.


About The High Renaissance Period

Changes in Society

The newly emerging painting techniques and styles were a reflection of the transformation that was taking place in Europe, the change from the medieval period to a more enlightened, tolerant society. Artists of the Renaissance were elevated in social standing and their art was no longer looked upon as simple handicrafts, but as divinely inspired creations. The spirit of an era awoke, revitalized with knowledge and creativity. The major painters of the Renaissance were not only artists but men of great genius who gave the world their great intellectual gifts. Florentine and Venetian painting were both formed by extraordinary personalities. These men tackled mathematical, artistic and philosophical problems of the highest interest, and presented solutions that have never lost their value. Leonardo da Vinci asserted "In dealing with a scientific problem, I first arrange several experiments, and then show with reasons why such an experiment must necessarily operate in this and in no other way. This is the method which must be followed in all research upon the phenomenon of nature. We must consult experience in the variety of cases and circumstances until we can draw from them a general rule that is contained in them. And for what purposes are these rules good? They lead us to further investigations of nature and to creations of art. They prevent us from deceiving ourselves and others by promising results which are not obtainable."

The major painters of the Renaissance were not only artists but men of great genius who gave the world their great intellectual gifts. Florentine and Venetian painting were both formed by extraordinary personalities. These independent creative geniuses tackled mathematical, artistic and philosophical problems of the highest interest, and presented solutions that have never lost their value. The sense of humanism pervading renaissance painting is still palpable. The painters touched on a multitude of  issues regarding the human condition - death, love, reason, religion, universal morality, social problems.

Key Descriptive Words  and Phrases associated with the Renaissance Movement rebirth, rediscovery of the classical world, City-state, Humanism, Humanist, Francesco Petrarch, Reform, The Prince, Theocracy, The Inquisition, Human Reasoning,  publication of Della Pittura, a book about the laws of mathematical perspective for artists, sfumato, chiaroscuro, linear perspectiveHeliocentric Theory, vanishing point, Savonarola, spiritually significant,  illuminated manuscriptidealized biblical themes, scriptorium, emotion, illuminator,  Age of Discovery, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world, mythology,  realistic use of colours and lightBonfire of the Vanities, Old Testament stories, ethereal and foggy backgrounds, Gospel parables, The Blackdeath, romanticized landscapes,  Christian symbolism.



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Italian Renaissance"

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