Died At Age: 65
Also Known As: Botticelli, Sandro, Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, Sandro Filipepi
Born in: Florence, Republic of Florence
Famous as: Painter
father: Mariano di Vanni dei Filipepi
mother: Smeralda Filipepi
siblings: Antonio di Vanni Filipepi, Giovanni di Vanni Filipepi, Simone di Mariano Filipepi
Died on: May 17, 1510
place of death: Florence, Republic of Florence
City: Florence, Italy
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, popularly known as Sandro Botticelli, was an Italian painter. He was a prominent artist from the ‘Florentine School’ during the Renaissance – a period beginning fourteenth century that witnessed rejuvenation of Roman and Greek culture in Italy. Though initially trained as a Goldsmith by his brother, he could realise his actual talent under the tutelage of Fra Filippo Lippi, an accomplished Florentine painter of the fifteenth century. He was aided by one of the most enthusiastic patrons of the Renaissance - Lorenzo de' Medici. Some of his finest works include ‘The Birth of Venus’, ‘The Mystical Nativity’, ‘Venus and Mars’ and ‘Primavera’. He also ornamented the ‘Sistine Chapel’ by doing some of the wall frescoes. Though he achieved success during Renaissance, his fame dampened during the period of High Renaissance. His work received real recognition only after late nineteenth century when his work was seen as some of the finest pieces of arts of the Early Renaissance by different groups like the ‘Pre-Raphaelites’.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi in Via Nuova, Borg'Ognissanti In c. 1445, in Florence city in the family of an older couple, Mariano di Vanni d'Amedeo Filipepi and Smeralda.
He was the youngest of the four boys of the couple. He was a fragile child and remained so all through his life. He received training as a goldsmith from his brother Antonio, who himself was a goldsmith.
From around 1460, he came under the guidance of one of the finest artists of the early Renaissance, Fra Filippo Lippi as an apprentice. This might imply that he received a more comprehensive education than his counterparts, although not much is known about his early life.
He was inspired by the lifelike and three-dimensional paintings of the first great Italian painter of the Rennaisance in Italy - Masaccio. He learnt to paint in a more intimate and comprehensive way from his first master Lippi who became very close to him. Before his death, Lippi asked Sandro Botticelli to guide his son.
He was from the Florentine school of art and was aided and backed by one of the most enthusiastic patrons of the Renaissance - Lorenzo de' Medici.
A recent discovery hints that he might have been involved in creating a fresco in Esztergom, for which he travelled to Hungary - order of which was given by the then archbishop of Hungary, János Vitéz to Filippo Lippi.
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His early works were more dominated by human figures which are apparent from the tempera paintings on panels like ‘Madonna with Child’ (c. 1467), ‘Potrait of a Young Man’ (c. 1469), ‘Fortitude’ (1470) and ‘St. Sebastian’ (1474). Clear outlines define the figures most of which display thoughtfulness and melancholy. He set up his own workshop sometime around 1470.
His painting ‘Adoration of the Magi’ (c.1475) features portrait of Cosimo de Medici (grandfather of Lorenzo de' Medici) along with that of his sons Giovanni and Piero and grandsons Giuliano and Lorenzo. Vasari considered it as one of the masterpieces of Botticelli.
His work consists of a number of fresco paintings such as ‘The Birth of Christ’ (1476-77) at the ‘Basilica of Santa Maria Novella’ and ‘St. Augustine’ (1480) at Ognissanti in Florence.
In 1481 Pope Sixtus IV instructed eminent Umbrian and Florentine painters including Botticelli to decorate the walls of the ‘Sistine Chapel’, Vatican with frescos. ‘St. Sixtus II’, ‘Punishment of Korah, Dathan and Abiram’, ‘The Temptation of Christ’ and ‘The Trials of Moses’ are his four frescos at the Chapel which were painted during 1481 to 1482.
During the mid-1480s he along with other artists Domenico, Filippino Lippi, Perugino and Ghirlandaio decorated the villa of his patron Lorenzo de' Medici which was situated near Volterra.
Many of his works post 1490 displayed a new style of painting with several small figures in a canvas that visibly became more vibrant. Some such works are ‘Calumny of Apelles’ (c. 1495), ‘Last Communion of St. Jerome’ (c. 1495) and ‘The Descent of the Holy Ghost’ (1495 – 1505)
He was a part of a committee in 1491 to take decision regarding a facade for the ‘Cathedral of Florence’.
At a later stage of his life, Botticelli became a follower of Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican preacher and friar. Although the extent of the preacher’s influence on Botticelli is not known, his work of art eventually altered from an ornamental to a more devout one, which is evident from his painting ‘The Mystical Nativity’ (c. 1500 – 01).
His later works included a series of paintings depicting the life-cycle of St. Zenobius which were characterised by distorted figures with visibly diminutive scale and use of unnatural colours. Two such paintings are ‘Four Scenes from the Early Life of Saint Zenobius’ (c. 1500) and ‘Three Miracles of St. Zenobius’ (1500 – 1505).
In 1504, he was part of a committee to decide on the place where Michelangelo's David would be kept.
During the last stage of his life he became disabled which resulted in lack of painting assignments. Even though his work was followed widely, his style of art soon dampened during the period of High Renaissance when fresh styles of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci emerged.
His fame and success saw meteoric rise following backing of the influential Medici family which resulted in the Papacy selecting him among other great artists for fresco work in the ‘Sistine Chapel’, Vatican. During that era it was considered the greatest honor and endorsement for any artist to get a Papal sanction for such work.
Giorgio Vasari found the two masterpieces of Sandro Botticelli, the ‘Primavera’ (c. 1482) and ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c. 1485) in the Castello villa of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici (cousin of Lorenzo the Magnificent). Both the tempera paintings showcase Botticelli’s earlier style reflecting thoughtfulness and melancholy of the figures. The ambiguous yet enthralling subjects of the paintings garnered all-round attention from scholars.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was neither married nor in favour of such a move and expressed that the very thought of marriage horrifies him.
It was commonly believed that he had gone through unrequited love of a married noblewoman, Simonetta Vespucci, who supposedly remained his model for the painting ‘The Birth of Venus’. She found place in many of his other works even after her death.
The Florentine Archives maintains a summary of a sodomy charge against him dated November 16, 1502 that states, “Botticelli keeps a boy”, which was later dropped.
On May 17, 1510, he passed away in his hometown and his wish that he be buried at the feet of Simonetta Vespucci, was carried out and he was buried at the ‘Church of Ognissanti’.