Sandro Botticelli

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Sandro Botticelli

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Alessandro Filipepi, aka Sandro Botticelli, was born in Ognissanti, Florence in 1445. Based on documents of a public record from 1458, he came from a humble family. His father, Mariano Vanni, was a leather tanner, and together with his mother Smeralda, had four children. Alessandro was the youngest; it is known that the elder brother, Giovanni, was a “Sensale al Monte” (a business mediator for exchange agents in Florence); Antonio, the second child, was a goldsmith; and the third brother, Simone is believed to have been a chronicler for historical events of Florence and Italy.

In the same document, it is mentioned that in that year Sandro, who was the 13 years old, was “unhealthy” and 'sta ad allegere'. This last expression, confronted also with other indications from The Lives from Giorgio Vasari, is translated by scholars as “sta a legare” (alloying) meaning that he was working with metals and jewellery. From this information then, it is assumed that the young Sandro was trained at his goldsmith’s brother workshop, nicknamed Botticelli, name that he passes to all male family members, including Sandro.

Even if the apprenticeship as goldsmith was short, it had an important impact in the development of his artistic experience and that can be seen in the details and in the fine and precise line of his early paintings, which show troubled movements and is full on sudden variations.

Some years after the closing of his father’s business, in 1464, the family Filipepi bought a house in Via Nuova, which becomes their definitive residence. Following this move, the friendship between the Filipepi and the Vespucci was born, whose influent protection never ends and follows the artist for all his life.

It is very probable that is was through the Vespucci that Sandro started to be one of the pupils of Filippo Lippi, as well as getting several and important commissions. In this same year, Sandro Botticelli moved to Prato to start in the prestigious workshop of the painter and black friar Filippo Lippi. His teachings left an important mark in his style. When Lippi moved to Spoleto in 1467, Botticelli returned to Florence and started to attend the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio. Also in this instance his style is rich, and above all relates to a major command of the representation of the space and of the distribution of light. In this occasion, Sandro had the possibility to get o know other talented artists, among them Leonardo da Vinci, seven years his junior. After that there were important contacts, like with Piero del Pollaiolo, another well known Florentine master.

From 1470 Botticelli became independent, opened his own workshop in his house and soon got prestigious tasks. He worked mainly for the powerful Medici family in Florence.

Botticelli’s workshop became quite prolific, hundreds of works were made there and it housed several pupils, and among them Filippino Lippi stands out. Many paintings were based on drawings made by him, but then were carried out by the pupils and could sometimes get the intervention of the master. As Federico Zeni has mentioned, some drawings as hands, heads, glimpses of landscape, indicate a kind of industrial activity in which models prepared for assembly were used, with appropriate adaptation for bigger compositions.

Between 1481 and 1482, Botticelli, invited by Lorenzo de’ Medici, stayed in Rome together with other Florentine painters at Pope Sisto IV’s, in order to paint the frescoes of the Cappella Sistina. He then returned to his house in Florence to stay.
Like many other artists from his time, Botticelli never got married, and for that reason he was subject to gossips that went around in those times in Florence. After his death in 1622, a collection of anonymous playful tales written between 1537 and 1542 was published, where his loathing for marriage was mentioned. It was a dialogue between the painter and Tommaso Soderini, one of the most important politicians of Florence, very close to the Medici. Naturally it is not possible to know if there is any truth in that, but it is a funny anecdote:

"Essendo esso [Botticelli] una volta da Messer Tommaso Soderini stretto a tor moglie, gli rispose: Vi voglio dire quello che non è troppo notte passate che m'intervenne, che sognavo havere tolto moglie; e tanto dolore ne presi che io mi destai, et per non mi radormentare et per non lo risognare più, mi levai et andai tutta notte per Firenze a spasso come un pazo. Per il che intese messer Tommaso che non era terreno da porvi vigna."

which tells how Messer Tommaso Soderini once asked Botticelli why he was not yet married. He answered that after a dream that he had got married, he woke up so upset that he was not able to fall asleep again and so walked around Florence the whole night like a madman. For that reason, Tommaso though that it was better not to insist in that subject.

The final years of his life were marked by a deep religious crisis, where he became a follower of the Girolamo Savonarola doctrine. As a consequence, his artistic production took a turn and his style changed fundamentally, renouncing his classical youthful vision and recovering an archaic and medieval expression. Sandro Botticelli lived and worked in Florence until his death at 78 years old, on the 17th May 1510.

A. Cocchi.

Trad. A. Sturmer




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Tags:Botticelli, painting, Renaissance, .

Stile:Quattrocento, Rinascimento.

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Sandro Botticelli. Allegory of Spring. Detail of Zephyrus and Chloris. 1478-80. Tempera on wood. 203x314 cm. Florence, Uffizi Gallery


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