Sandro Botticelli was a highly esteemed Italian painter working during the early Italian Renaissance.
His Renaissance oil paintings are some of the western tradition's most celebrated and beautiful artworks. Botticelli's excellent draftsmanship, color harmony, and balanced compositions cemented his name.
As well as famous religious paintings, he also painted secular portraits and mythological themes. Indeed, Botticelli was one of the first Renaissance artists to focus on non-religious subjects, such as ancient Greek and Roman myths and legends.
With his focus on art for religious art, Sandro Botticelli's paintings transformed art forever. Today, we explore his fascinating life and some of the most exciting Botticelli artworks.
In terms of famous artists during the early Renaissance art period, Botticelli equals Leonardo da Vinci.
Sandro Botticelli (born in 1445) created some of the most famous religious paintings and mythological artworks.
He spent his early life in the city of Florence. His parents were Mariano di Vanni d'Amedeo Filipepi, who worked as a tanner, and Smeralda Filipepi.
Botticelli was a brilliant child. He often fooled around at school (bored with the simplistic curriculum), known for his practical jokes and hyperactive behavior.
Botticelli's father changed his profession in 1460. After this point, he worked as a goldbeater. Botticelli later trained as a goldsmith, collaborating with the master Maso Finiguerra. This career meant Botticelli met many local artists and wealthy families.
His name derives from a family nickname. Indeed, Botticelli translates as "little barrel" or "small wine cask," referring to his boyhood round shape.
After working as a goldsmith apprentice, Botticelli transferred to fine arts. He collaborated with the esteemed artist Fra Filippo Lippi, supported by the Medici family. By 1470, Botticelli ran a successful workshop.
Botticelli was not a Medici. Nonetheless, the family played an essential role in his artistic career. Sandro Botticelli's own family disapproved of his shift into fine art. He became incredibly close with the Medici, described as a brother, friend, and surrogate son.
By 1472, Botticelli joined the local Florentine artist's guild. He also employed Fra Filippo Lippi's son (Filippino Lippi) after his old teacher died.
Botticelli never worried about conventions and rules. Instead of students completing their masters' paintings, Botticelli reversed this trend. He often finished Filippino Lippi's paintings, most notably the Adoration of the Kings. This dual-attributed painting currently hangs in London's National Gallery.
Adoration of the Magi (painted sometime between 1470 and 1474) is another example of religious artwork.
Botticelli spent most of his career creating paintings for the Medici family and their wealthy friends and contacts. The Medici commissioned some of Botticelli's best-known secular and mythological artworks, notably Primavera and The Birth of Venus.
Sandro Botticelli Primavera is a large renaissance panel painting measuring 2.03m x 3.14m, almost 80 inches x 123.6".
By the early 1480s, Botticelli's fame spread all over Italy. Finally, in 1481, the Pope summoned Botticelli to Rome to decorate the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
As a result, Botticelli created some of the most beautiful frescoes and paintings of Christ in existence. He also painted several portraits of Popes. His famous religious paintings cemented Botticelli's reputation among contemporary audiences and modern art historians.
Botticelli's paintings of Jesus Christ, Holy Trinity c1491, can be seen at the Courtauld Gallery in London.
After just over a year in Rome, Botticelli returned to Florence. The 1480s were his most prolific decade, where he created many mythological artworks. Indeed, Sandro Botticelli Birth of Venus appeared in this decade, as well as the intriguing Venus and Mars.
Today, art lovers celebrate Botticelli's Renaissance oil paintings for their unique mix of gothic lines and detailing with harmonized, classical compositions. The beautiful nature of The Birth of Venus owes much to his early training as a goldsmith, with decorative stripes and intricate detailing contributing to the overall effect.
A Renaissance resurgence of Greek and Roman ideas inspired Botticelli's painting. The notion that art could be for pleasure (not just for educational and religious purposes) was a breakthrough.
In the 1490s, Botticelli suffered a crisis of confidence. As a result, his painting style changed, rejecting earlier decorative and ornamental approaches. Instead, Botticelli shifted towards more simplistic, unadorned compositions.
These oil paintings often had a strict biblical or moralizing focus, seen in paintings such as Holy Trinity (c.1491-93).
The 1490s were a challenging decade for Botticelli. The Medici family (his supportive, wealthy patrons) left Florence. In addition, foreign invasions and plagues rocked the entirety of Italy. Botticelli's art consequently became stricter and more serious.
These developments culminated in the late 1490s, when Botticelli may have heard the preaching of Girolamo Savonarola (an influential Dominican friar).
In 1497, Savonarola held the infamous "Bonfire of the Vanities". He preached against "sinful" works of art, focusing on pagan mythologies and secular themes. Although the story remains a myth, historians believe Botticelli burnt many of his works after meeting Savonarola.
Whatever the truth, Botticelli maintained his strict religious focus in his last years. He created many famous religious paintings in the late 1490s and early 1500s.
The Mystical Nativity (c.1500) is Botticelli's most ambitious and well-known later work. It reflects Savanorola's fanatical Christianity and Botticelli's sense of apocalyptic uncertainty.
Botticelli died on 17 May 1510. He was sixty-four or sixty-five years old.
As the 1500s progressed, Botticelli's work gradually fell out of favor, resulting in severe and deep depression. As a man previously famed for his quick wits and energetic personality, this decline was startling for Botticelli's family and friends.
He never married, always preferring platonic company among friends and work colleagues. In Vasari's Lives of the Artists, the great biographer described Botticelli's final years as "ill and decrepit". Vasari said Botticelli couldn't stand upright, requiring crutches to move around.
While Botticelli's work largely disappeared in the years after his death, Botticelli enjoyed a revival during the Victorian period. In England, the Pre-Raphaelite artists particularly adored his art. They admired Botticelli's mixture of Italian Gothic, Roman, Greek Classicism, and Renaissance styles.
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