Sandro Botticelli Biography
Sandro Botticelli was born in Florence in 1445, the fourth child of tanner Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi.
Botticelli went to work in the studio of Antonio del Pollaiolo, painter, goldsmith and sculptor, from whom he derived the elegant style that was to become a hallmark of his work. By 1470, Sandro had his own workshop. Five years later, he painted the portrait (National Gallery, Washington) of Giuliano de" Medici, brother of Lorenzo. In about 1478, Botticelli, now in the favour of the Medici family, painted the enigmatic "Primavera (Spring)" (Uffizi, Florence).
The painting was commissioned by Lorenzo, son of Pierfrancesco de" Medici, a tormented and neurotic young man. The painting of "Primavera"– like "La Nascita di Venere (The Birth of Venus)" – was placed inside the Villa di Castello where Lorenzino lived. From this painting, a number of art historians have derived the iconography of the Florentine culture of Botticelli"s day.
Agnolo Poliziano, poet and tutor of Lorenzo de" Medici"s sons (including Giovanni, future Pope Clemente X), with his lyric poems in which the wind teases nymphs in Arcadian woods, would appear to be the textual reference for Botticelli"s paintings mythology.
This philosophical movement was Florentine Neoplatonism, championed by Pico della Mirandola and by Marsilio Ficino, who during this period wrote "Consonantia Mosis et Platonis", an ideal union of Platonism and Christianity. Primavera would appear to be the visual representation of the Ficinian concept: the three Graces are the Trinity, Flora the Virgin, and Mercury the character that draws together the Platonic and Christian elements. The painting, like a thaumaturgical amulet that captures beneficent astral energy and reflects it upon the beholder, could have been intended as an "amulet" for tempering the sanguine character of Lorenzino.
In 1481 Sandro was summoned to the Fabbrica di San Pietro in Rome. In the Sistine Chapel he painted three large frescoes with a powerful, modern style and colour tones: "Il Giovane Mosé (The Youth of Moses)"; "La Punizione dei Figli di Corah (Punishment of the Sons of Corah)" and "La Tentazione di Cristo (The Temptation of Christ)".
Botticelli"s painting gradually became bare and essential. He abandoned decorative motifs, details deriving from Flemish painting and sumptuous still lifes, and instead used vibrant colours and a mediaeval composition in which perspective is intentionally ignored or overturned. An example is the extreme and sublime "Natività Mistica (Mystic Nativity)" (National Gallery, London) where the angels in the foreground rather than praising the birth of the Saviour console each other sorrowfully for the worldly perdition that surrounds them. These concepts – namely a return to pauperism and a moral reform of the Church – formed the basis of the Creed declaimed by the monk Girolamo Savonarola, of which the late painting of Botticelli appears to be the visual representation. The dream was short-lived: in 1498, Girolamo was burnt at the stake as a heretic in Florence. Lorenzo de" Medici had also died in 1492. In 1505 Botticelli painted his "Crocifissione Mistica (Mystic Crucifixion)", perhaps an obscure tribute to the monk, perhaps a legacy of disillusion in the Church, the world and himself.
Poor and sick, Sandro Botticelli died in Florence in 1510 at the age of 65.