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Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli
Born:1445-01-01   Died: 1510-01-01
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Sandro Botticelli, born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, is one of the leading painters of the Florentine Renaissance. Taught by his father, Mariano Filipepi, he was quick to learn but restless and wayward. 'Botticello' (little barrel) became his nickname.

Apprenticed to a goldsmith and later to a painter, he had his own workshop by 1470. For most of his life he worked for the great families of Florence, especially the Medici family. He became extremely successful but later his style became unfashionable and he died in obscurity.

Botticelli's two most famous paintings are the Primavera (c1478) and the Birth of Venus (c1483), both in the Uffizi in Florence. The beauty of these paintings is overwhelming. The figures seem to float in space, pictured against a decorative landscape. In 1481 Botticelli was one of several artists chosen to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. There he painted The Youth of Moses, the Punishment of the Sons of Corah, and the Temptation of Christ.

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  • Sandro Botticelli
    Sandro Botticelli

    The most sublime painter!

  • The Birth of Venus.
    The Birth of Venus.

    Year:1485
    Location:Uffizi, Florence, Italy

    Botticelli's most famous painting depicts the Goddess Venus emerging from the sea as a full grown woman, as described in Greek mythology. He painted this large for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco's Villa di Castello, around 1483, or even before. The Goddess is emerging from the water on a shell, being blown towards shore by the Zephyrs, symbols of spiritual passions, and with one of the Ores, goddesses of the seasons, who is handing her a flowered cloak. The Goddess is a symbol of pure spiritual love. Botticelli's views were considered 'pagan' by the Catholic authorities and some of his works were burned. Today we can be grateful that this sublimely beautiful work has escaped the bonfires of the Inquisition.

  • The Birth of Venus (detail).
    The Birth of Venus (detail).

    Year:1485
    Location:Uffizi, Florence, Italy

    The anatomy of Venus and various subsidiary details do not display the strict classical realism of Leonardo da Vinci or Raphael. Most obviously, Venus has an improbably long neck, and her left shoulder slopes at an anatomically unlikely angle. Such details, whether artistic errors or artistic licence, do little to diminish the great beauty of the painting, and some have suggested it prefigures mannerism. Reproductions and variations on Botticelli's famous painting have been numerous in popular culture, including in advertising and motion pictures. This painting inspired a scene in the 1962 James Bond film "Dr. No" with Ursula Andress rising from the sea. The scene was recreated in more detail in the 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, with Uma Thurman as Venus. A stylised of the face of Venus is on the 10-cent Italian euro coins.

  • Primavera (The Allegory of Spring ) (detail).
    Primavera (The Allegory of Spring ) (detail).

    Year:1482
    Location:Uffizi, Florence

    This detail demonstrates Botticelli's masterly touch. Not surprising that this painting is regarded as the most lyrical in all of Western art. The faces and figures are drawn so masterfully that the obvious effort of fashioning them is completely hidden.

  • Portrait of a Man with the Medal of Cosmo the Elder.
    Portrait of a Man with the Medal of Cosmo the Elder.

    Year:1474
    Location:Uffizi, Florence, Italy

    This painting belonged to Carlo de'Medici and went into the museum upon his death in 1666. The presence of the medal of Cosmo the Elder "Pater Patriae" has led to the hypothesis that the subject could have been a member of the Medici family, but of the various names that had been proposed, the most likely is that the man portrayed was actually Sandro Botticelli's brother, Antonio who was a goldsmith and medal maker. The medal the man holds is made of gilded stucco applied to the panel. It was an unusual technique for that time.

  • Primavera (The Allegory of Spring ).
    Primavera (The Allegory of Spring ).

    Year:1482
    Location:Uffizi, Florence, Italy

    Botticelli was a brilliant draftsman with a sophisticated understanding of perspective and anatomy. To this he added an astounding and gracious poetry of vision. And none of his paintings demonstrate this divine gift better than this, large mythological painting which was restored to its true colour in 1982. Scholars have argued what this painting, which is also knows as 'The Rites of Spring' is actually about. Botticelli catches the freshness of an early spring morning, with the pale light shining through the tall, straight trees, already laden with their golden fruit: oranges. The mythological figures can be identified as (right to left): Zephyr running after the nymph Clori, who transforms herself into Flora, goddess of Fecundity; in the centre is Venus, goddess of Love and here represented as queen of her realm, with Cupid straining a dart to the three Graces, while Mercury raises the caduceo to the clouds. Many flowers in the grass symbolize a wedding.



Learning art through great artists and their paintings is fun and exciting. Our friend and resident artist Stefan Mager has kindly given this introduction to the art world.


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