Sandro Botticelli.

  Sandro Botticelli was born in about 1445/46 under the birth name of Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi. Quite a mouthful, it is understandable that over the course of time that his Christian name, Alessandro, became shortened to Sandro. The name Botticelli, meaning Little Barrel, was the nickname of his well rounded older brother. The name was so familiar that eventually it was conferred upon every family member.

 Details of Sandro's childhood and early life remain sparse. He grew up in Florence with his three brothers in the shadow of the monastery of Santa Maria Novella.

 His father,  Mariano di Vanni was a tanner (the process of making leather) and lived with his wife Smeralda in the same district as the Vespucci family who became important patrons of the artists work.

It is thought that Botticelli had been trained as a goldsmith by his brother Antonio. Most renaissance painters started their apprenticeships at the age of twelve or  fourteen.


Virgin and Child by Sandro Botticelli

 Sandro's career as a painter started at the relatively late age of about eighteen when he was apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi a well respected Florentine artist. In Lippi's workshop he would learn the techniques of composition and fresco painting in addition to the grinding and mixing of various paints.   

 By 1470 Botticelli had his own workshop and became a member of St Lukes Guild. His "Adoration of the Magi", painted in 1475, includes several of the Medici family within the picture and emphasizes the importance of the Medici as patrons of the arts in Renaissance Italy.

Virgin and Child with Angel c.1465-67 (w)
This is one of Botticelli's earliest works and clearly shows the influence of his master Fillipo Lippi.

The Adoration of the Magi by Sandro Botticelli

"Adoration of the Magi" Sandro Botticelli.
1475-1476 Oil on panel 111 × 134 cm Uffizi, Florence 

 In this picture the kneeling center figure is Cosimo de' Medici and Botticelli himself stares out at the viewer, he is the figure in the yellow clothing on the right of the painting. 

Sandro Botticelli, Self Portrait

Self portrait from The Adoration of the Magi. (s)

The call to Rome.

 Pope Sixtus IV had summoned some of the greatest painters of the day to decorate the walls of the papal electoral chapel  that bore his name, The Sistine Chapel. The artists included, Pietro del Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli and Botticelli. This was almost thirty years before Michelangelo's famous ceiling frescoes. 

So.... if you visit the Chapel don't just look up! Remember to inspect the walls.

 From 1481 to 1482 Botticelli worked on the decoration of the Chapel, his contribution was a series of fresco's on the left wall, "Events of the life of Moses" "The Temptation of Christ" and "The Punishment of Korah". He also worked on a printed version of the Inferno by Dante.


Scenes in the life of Moses (detail) Sandro Botticelli

Detail. (w)
 Scenes of the Life of Moses
, Sistine Chapel.

Mythological Works.

Venus and Mars (detail) Sandro Botticelli

Venus and Mars.(detail)
This picture was painted for the Vespucci family in 1483. It represents the victory of Venus, Goddess of Love, over Mars, God of War. 

Athene and the Centaur (detail) Sandro Botticelli

"Athene" and the Centaur (detail)

Venus (detail) Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus. (detail)
Sandro Botticelli.

  After Sandro returned from Rome in 1482 he embarked on a series of mythological works.

 These paintings form the basis of Botticelli's present day fame as an artist and are excellent examples of renaissance art work. They constitute some of the most discussed and familiar images in renaissance art history and have a linear beauty that typifies this stage in the artist's career.   

"Primavera" is hailed as one of the artist's greatest works and dates from c1482. 

"Pallas Athene and the Centaur"

Another of Botticelli's mythological paintings, commissioned by the Medici family.

The Birth of Venus.

Botticelli's most famous work is the much copied "Birth of Venus" 1485.This masterpiece was painted for the villa of Lorenzo Medici and is now in the Uffizi in Florence.

Botticelli fell under the influence of the preaching monk Savonarola. He became an ardent follower, and there is a story that he destroyed some of his paintings in Savonarola's notorious Bonfire of the Vanities on February 7th 1497, (the ritual of burning objects of sin, such as songs, books, manuscripts and artwork deemed to be immoral).  Savonarola, after being condemned as a heretic and then excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI, was eventually strangled and burned to death in Florence on May 23rd 1498.

The Mystical Nativity by Sandro Botticelli

"The Mystical Nativity" 1500-1501 Sandro Botticelli.
Tempera on panel 108.5 × 74.9 cm National Gallery, London

You can purchase a copy of this work through The National Gallery.

Personal Opinion:-

In this almost surrealistic picture the Holly Family are painted on a larger scale than the other figures in the painting, a throwback to medieval works. The end of the century was a time of uncertainty filled with apocalyptic visions of the end of the world. The Mystical Nativity highlights this paranoia with its images of saints and devils and dancing angels, a fragile mix of good and evil that epitomised renaissance Italy.

 In 1504 the artist was appointed to the committee to decide on a site for Michelangelo's statue of David, he had also served on the committee to decide the facade for the Cathedral in Florence.

 Sandro Botticelli died on May 17th 1510 in Florence and the details of the last part of his live remain a mystery. Vasari writes that the painter was ill and infirm, certainly he received no commissions for paintings in his later years. After his death much of his art was overlooked only becoming prominent again in the nineteenth century.