Sandro Botticelli, born Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (March 1, 1445-May 17, 1510), was an Italian painter of the Renaissance. He is part of the third generation of the Fourteenth century, which was headed by Lorenzo de' Medici the Magnificent and Angelo Poliziano. They sought the freedom to live as human beings, a concept taken from classical antiquity. Giorgio Vasari narrates in his Vita de Botticelli, from Botticelli's childhood to his death. This work belongs to Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori. About a century later, under the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici, this period was considered a "golden age" by Giorgio Vasari. The artistic splendor reached in Florence at the end of the 15th century was due to the patronage of wealthy families.
The artist's posthumous reputation declined markedly in the following centuries, but starting in the late nineteenth century, his work was again considered an exemplar of linear grace; today it is considered the ultimate exponent of that style. Two of the best-known Florentine masterpieces are The Birth of Venus and The Spring. In 1815, they were exhibited at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
He was born in the outskirts of Florence, in a working-class neighborhood known as Solferino. In the parish of All Saints or Solferino resided the Vespucci, allies of the Medici, from which family he would receive commissions. Painter and sculptor Sandro Botticelli was the youngest of four children born to Mariano di Vanni di Amedeo Filipepi, a tanner, and his wife Smeralda. When his brother was born, Giovanni was 25 years old, and it is believed that he adopted and raised him. It is unclear whether Botticello got his nickname because he was fat or because he was a heavy drinker. Other sources say it was his brother Antonio who had this nickname. It is from his work that the nickname Botticelli derives. In 1458, as their father's business was thriving, they acquired a country villa in Careggi. The Florentine Platonic Academy was established exactly there. Botticelli underwent a shift in his artistic style following this early influence.
The Rucellai family came into contact with artist Giovanni di Paolo, for whom architect Alberti designed the family's palace, the Holy Sepulchre in the Rucellai chapel and the façade of Santa Maria Novella. It was Alberti's importance that led Sandro to read his treatise De Pictura in detail. He followed their recommendations on many occasions. He did not become an apprentice until the age of fourteen, which suggests that he received a more thorough education than other Renaissance artists. Vasari reports that he first apprenticed with his brother Antonio in 1458. The boy's father sent him to study with Friar Filippo Lippi in Prato between the years 1464 and 1467. Botticelli was greatly influenced by this painter, who managed the synthesis between the new control of three-dimensional forms, the expressive delicacy in faces and gestures, the decorative details (from late-Gothic style) and an intimate style. Botticelli's early works have been attributed to his master, and even today the authorship is a subject of debate. Curiously, Botticelli ended up being a teacher, and having Filippo's son, Filippino Lippi, as one of his students. In a lesser degree, he was influenced by Masaccio's monumentality. In 1467 Sandro returned to Florence, where he frequented the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, working side by side with Leonardo da Vinci. A whole series of Madonnas was inspired by Lippi's work in the 1450s.
He was said to have fallen into poverty, and would have starved to death had it not been for the help of his former employers. However, he continued painting, in a more dramatic style with a move toward older models, as can be seen in the series on Saint Cenobius' Life and the Mystical Nativity (1501).
Botticelli's paintings inspired the Florentine type of woman. But Botticelli seems to have loved no one; certainly, there is no evidence of his sentimental excesses. He never married, although evidence suggests he may have had a close relationship with Simonetta Vespucci, who appears in many of his works and to have provided the inspiration for many of the female figures in his paintings.
Although Giorgio Vasari says that he was one of the piagnoni, opponents of the Medici family, he remained in Florence during Savonarola's reign and none of his possessions were confiscated when the religious leader fell.
In 1502 he was anonymously denounced by one of his assistants, but the charges against him were later dismissed. In 1502-1505 he served on a committee, along with Lorenzo di Credi, that was to decide the location of Michelangelo's David.
In 1502 the author wrote a famous work on the creation of a kind of newspaper known as beceri, which were written in order to entertain the reading of the nobles of Renaissance society. Such a project was never brought to fruition.
He died in 1510 and was buried in his parish church, the church of Ognissanti in Florence, for which he had painted in 1480 his greatest work, the fresco of St. Augustine. Filippino Lippi was the only true heir to his art; he shared with Botticelli the restlessness present in his last works.
By 1470 Botticelli had his own workshop. His figures, as seen in his paintings from this date, already display a conception of the figure as seen in bas-relief and indicate a portrayal prefiguring Renaissance painting. That same year he made La Virgen con el Niño y dos ángeles. It is the first of his altarpieces to have survived. Using this medium, he creates a kind of stage-theater that emphasizes the historical context of the Renaissance.
The Medici soon appreciated Donatello's talent, and from them he received numerous commissions. But his relationship with the family predates this. Filippo Lippi recomendó a Pedro de Cosme de Medici, padre de Lorenzo, a Filippo Lippi. The Portrait of a Man with the Medal of Cosimo the Elder (1474) is an example of early Renaissance portraiture. Michelangelo made many works for Lorenzo de Medici. In his 1475 painting, The Adoration of the Magi, Botticelli portrayed Cosimo the Elder kneeling before the Child in a group composed of his sons Peter and Lorenzo and a number of associates. This painting set by Michelangelo, which he painted for the church of Santa Maria Novella, attracted the attention of the Medici. After Poliziano (1475), and commissioned by the Medici family and Neri di Gino to paint a banner for the tournament of Julian of Medici, he began work for them. His repeated contacts with this family certainly helped to guarantee him political protection and create the ideal conditions for his artistic output.
In 1470 he received an important commission: to design the Fortress. One of the paintings on Virtue for the Court of the Merchants, for a series of moral paintings executed by Piero Pollaiuolo, is now in the Louvre. This leads some to think that by 30 years of age, Leonardo da Vinci was already executing outstanding works. That year he was commissioned to paint two small paintings, Stories of Judith. This story was one of the most popular during the quattrocento. In his History of Famous Women, Giovanni Boccaccio includes a depiction of her.
In 1472 he joined the Company of St. Luke, a group of painters. In the following years Botticelli became very famous, to the point of being called to Pisa to paint a fresco. Around 1474, while decorating the column of Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence, he painted the San Sebastiano.
With his blending of Christian and pagan themes and his celebration of aesthetics as a transcendental element of art, he became the leading interpreter of Neoplatonism at the time. To give form to his new view of the world, Botticelli opted for grace. His compositions were both intellectually elegant and exquisite representations of feelings. The influence of Gothic realism is tempered by Botticelli's study of Antiquity in these works. Even if they are easily seen in pictures, the subjects themselves remain fascinating because of their ambiguity. The various meanings of these paintings continue to receive scholarly attention, focusing primarily on the poetry and philosophy of the artist's humanist contemporaries. The works do not illustrate a particular text; they are individual pieces of art that use several texts for their meaning. Perhaps its beauty, characterized by other writers as exemplifying "grace" and described as possessing linear rhythm by John Ruskin, has been no doubt. In Ruskin (1890), Botticelli is described as a clear exponent of Christian romanticism. Ugolino Verino (1503) mentions Buonaccorso Pitti in two of his poems about famous Florentines.
Ugolino Verino mentions Machiavelli in two of his poems dealing with the most illustrious Florentines. Apart from Botticelli, several other artists are mentioned in this work: Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi, Giotto, and Antonio Pollaiuolo.
For three centuries, he was forgotten or remembered as a second-rate artist. So it had little influence. However, in the mid-19th century, a group of artists called the Pre-Raphaelites recognized his work. He was recognized as an exceptional artist, although inferior to Leonardo in depth of feeling but not in intensity of expression. Some 19th century critics were greatly enthusiastic about Botticelli. For instance, Walter Pater described Botticelli as an artist who "surpassed the limits of his generation by painting like a visionary" or Edward Burne-Jones or Bernard Berenson, among others.