As well as the small number of mythological subjects which are his best known works today, he painted a wide range of religious subjects and also some portraits. He and his workshop were especially known for their Madonna and Childs, many in the round tondo shape. Botticelli’s best-known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera, both in the Uffizi in Florence. He lived all his life in the same neighbourhood of Florence, with probably his only significant time elsewhere the months he spent painting in Pisa in 1474 and the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1481–82.
Only one of his paintings is dated, though others can be dated from other records with varying degrees of certainty, and the development of his style traced with confidence. He was an independent master for all the 1470s, growing in mastery and reputation, and the 1480s were his most successful decade, when all his large mythological paintings were done, and many of his best Madonnas.
By the 1490s his style became more personal and to some extent mannered, and he could be seen as moving in a direction opposite to that of Leonardo da Vinci (seven years his junior) and a new generation of painters creating the High Renaissance style as Botticelli returned in some ways to the Gothic style.
He has been described as “an outsider in the mainstream of Italian painting”, who had a limited interest in many of the developments most associated with Quattrocento painting, such as the realistic depiction of human anatomy, perspective, and landscape, and the use of direct borrowings from classical art. His training enabled him to represent all these aspects of painting, without adopting or contributing to their development.
Sandro Botticelli Reimagined at the V&A is the story of shifting cycles of taste, ideology led re-appropriations and the power of populist fashion.
The story is told backwards from the familiar deconstructions of contemporary post-modernism, through the 19th century rediscoveries, and triumphantly back to the master himself.
Whatever else this exhibition is, it is also the largest exhibition of Botticelli paintings and drawings ever held in the UK – and essential viewing for that reason alone.
Although hugely famous in his lifetime, Botticelli was largely forgotten for more than 300 years until his work was progressively rediscovered in the 19th century.
The succeeding generation of artists including Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo were to overshadow the master with their technical innovations in naturalism. Botticelli’s figures looked rather flat, stiff and naive in comparison.
This triumvirate was held up as the exemplars of art, until finally challenged by a new spirit in art in the mid 19th century. The Pre-Raphaelites were particularly instrumental in promoting Botticelli and the early Renaissance over Raphael.
Of course the ideological attractions of the more primitive style of the early renaissance, continue to appeal to modern artists in much the same way as they did to their 19th century forebears.
But this hardly explains why Botticelli is still so popular today, which may be mostly owed to the enduring power of one painting – the ‘Birth of Venus’.
It is perhaps the exceptionally ethereal and timeless beauty and surrealism of the Venus nude – one of the first nudes in post classical Western painting – that may really explain why this painting in particular is still so embedded in the popular imagination.
The primary aim of the exhibition is to explore the variety of ways artists and designers from the Pre-Raphaelites to the present have responded to the artistic legacy of Botticelli.
Including painting, fashion, film, drawing, photography, tapestry, sculpture and print, the exhibition also features works by artists as diverse as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, René Magritte, Elsa Schiaparelli, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.
born in Florence (the address is now Borgo Ognissanti 28) as Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi.
He was one of the eight children of the tanner Mariano di Vanni and his wife Smeralda. His name Botticelli was inherited from his eldest brother Giovanni, a pawnbroker, who was called “Il Botticello, “the little barrel, in Italian.
Botticelli’s family rented a house in Careggi, near Florence, from the Rucellai family.
Sandro Botticelli began his career as a goldsmith – like many Renaissance artist at his second-eldest brother Antonio.
commenced an apprenticeship as a painter in Prato with Fra Filippo Lippi, who had a substantial influence on his painting.
Adoration of the Magi
One of his first independent works painted under Lippi’s influence. This painting was the first in a long tradition of Botticelli’s Adoration pictures, he made five known works on this theme. The frequency, with which this scene was painted, not only in Botticelli’s work but generally in 15th-century Florence, should be seen in connection with Florentine life and with the existence of Brotherhoods at that time such as so-called Brotherhood of the Magi, the Compania dei Magi, considered one of the most important congregations in Florence. Such Brotherhoods had being significant institutions in Florentine life since the middle Ages. The Compania dei Magi also staged a grandiose procession through Florence every five years on Epiphany, the feast day of the Magi.
The picture was commissioned by Piero il Gottoso de Medici.
The Virgin and Child with an Angel
One of the Madonna’s paintings from his earliest phase, revealing a significant influence of his teacher Fra Filippo Lippi.
returned to Florence and probably began to work at Verrocchio workshop. Andrea del Verrocchio was also a teacher of Leonardo da Vinci at this time.
The Return of Judith to Betulia and the Discovery of the Dead Holofernes
Small dimensions of these two paintings (31×24/25) indicate that they were most probably intended to be kept in caskets or leather cases, to be admired at close proximity or shown on special occasions. In these paintings a new approach to corporeality (probably the influence of Verrocchio) a more elaborate three-dimensional treatment is visible.
he set up his own workshop in his father’s house in Via della Porcelana in Florence (purchased by his father in 1464).
His first big commission was received from the Sei della Mercanzia (a tribunal of six judges for merchant’s affairs) in Florence for the back-rest of a chair. His neighbor Giorgio Antonio Vespuci probably helped him to get this job. In this picture Botticelli represented his own “vocabulary of form”.
Enrolled as a master in the painter’s guild of the Compagnia degli Artisti di San Luca. Filippino Lippi, son of Fra Filippo Lippi, became his apprentice.
Adoration of the Magi (ca. 1470-75)
This painting, along with others from Adoration of the Magi “series” (kept in National Galley in Washington and Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence) executed in seventies and in the beginning of eighties of the 15th century, represents Botticelli’s exercise of composition and spatial relations. The central, pyramidal composition is common to all other representations of the same motive, used also by Leonardo da Vinci in his painting. Many see in this painting a clear influence of Alberti, who in his treatise De Pittura recommended the representation of the wealth and diversity of things, such as old people, young people, boys, women, girls, children, chickens, puppies, little birds, horses, sheep, buildings, tract of land. Sand all such things. (Botticelli. P. 19)
Sandro Botticelli went to Pisa to paint frescoes in the Camposanto, which remained unfinished.
established connection with the Medici family which lasted all his life:
Adoration of the Magi
This picture established his fame in Florence. It was commissioned by Guaspare del Lama, banker, enrolled in the Arte di Cambio (The Guild of Money Changers) such as the Medici, and was meant as a gift for Medici Chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence.
Adoration of the Magi from 1475 is drawn from two different views: antique ruins on the right are observed from another perspective, than the central part which is coming out from the central vanishing point.
The painting features portraits of the Medici (Cosimo the Elder appears as the oldest king, Piero di Medici in the middle of the painting as king robed in red and white, Lorenzo di Medici, Giuliano) together with their courtiers, a portrait of donor del Lama as an older man with his finger raised, and also Botticelli’s self-portrait in golden robe at the right edge of the painting. Such painter’s signature is in this case taking the function of the person that catches the eye of the viewer, thus introducing him into the happening represented. This function was a remain of a gradually vanishing medieval tradition, since the newly born vanishing point of the perspective takes this function of the gaze.
About characters that establish contact with the viewer wrote also Alberti in De Pintura: “I like to see in a narrative someone who advises us or points out to us what is going on or draws us near with a gesture to look or, with worried expression or wild eyes, warns us not to approach, or draws attention to something dangerous or marvelous in it, or invites you to weep with them or to laugh.”
Portrait of a Man Holding a Medallion of Cosimo di Medici Botticelli’s self-portrait
His self-portrait from Adoration of the Magi is, besides an introducing character function, interesting from an aspect of portrait and self-portrait.The portrait was one of genres that was in Renaissance most interested in communication with the viewer. The painter is usually represented looking out of the picture, as if seeking to establish an eye contact with the viewer. Besides an obvious facial resemblance with his self-portrait is Portrait of a Man with a Medal also bearing this characteristics.
Madonna del Magnificat
The most expensive picture he ever made (extensive use of gold). Tondi were meant for private houses and guilds.The text on the left side of the book was identified as a hymn of St. Zacharias, which is a song on the birth of his son, John the Baptist (also the principal patron of Florence).Botticelli painted St. John the Baptist also in The Bardi Altarpiece (1484) and The St. Barnaba Altarpiece (ca. 1487).
fresco in Ognisanti in Florence commissioned by the Vespucci family. Note a sand watch (like Durer’s Knight, Death and Devil) showing the time of death of St. Augustine.
July 1481 – May 1482
stayed in Rome where he made three frescoes on the walls of Sistine Chapel depicting events from the life of Moses and temptation of Christ. Adoration of the Magi
Composition of this picture is, compared to the earlier variant on the same motive, “more correct”. Rays of perspective are converging into a central vanishing point, placed exactly in the center of the picture together with the central motive of the happening.
after returning from Rome he made his “Meisterstiche” (compare with Durer) comprising a series of mythological paintings: Primavera, Palas and the Centaur, Venus and Mars and The Birth of Venus.
Botticelli and his brother Simone, who returned from Napoli, purchased a country villa below the Bellosguardo. Piero di Medici capitulated to French king Charles VII and the Medici were expelled from Florence. Savonarola, who became a Dominican prior in San Marco monastery in 1491, with his sermons against heretics and wealth also helped Florentinians to turn against the reign of Medici.
Lamentation over the Dead Christ
Family of Donato Cioni – among whose members were also followers of Savonarola, named “piagnoni” or “weepers” – commissioned this painting. The Calumny of Apelles
This is the last of Botticelli’s pictures depicting a secular story. Probably this is not only about Apel’s story, but the motive also conceals a personal event from Botticelli’s life, perhaps the accusation about his homo-erotic relationship with his students from 1502.(if so, the painting was painted later than supposed).
Botticelli remains connected with the Medici even after their expulsion, and visits them in Villa del Trebio:
Botticelli is in contact with Michelangelo, who send him a message for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco, to be handed over when Botticelli is in Villa del Trebio again. (Botticelli, p. 93)
15. November 1498
is registered on the guild’s list of the Arte de Medici e Speziali.
Botticelli’s paintings from this period differ from previous. There is no more any mundane and mythological motives but strictly religious, and different is also the method of presentation – they are very “closed” images and no nudity is allowed like before. Historians assume that this change towards the end of the century occurred under the influence of fanatical sermons of Girolamo Savonarola. This notion is supported by knowing that his brother Simone was a keen supporter of Savonarola. Botticelli withdrew himself after Savanorola’s execution for heresy in 1498. The iconography of this last period is completely Christian.
The Mystical Nativity
The inscription in Greek explains the iconography: This picture I, Alessandro, painted at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, in the halftime after the time, during the fulfillment of the eleventh of John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, when the Devil was loosed for the tree and a half years. Afterwards he shall be chained according to the twelfth and we shall see him as in the picture.
This is the only picture which was signed and dated by the artist.
the accusation of homo-erotic relationships with his students.
25. January 1504
among the members of the committee of artists founded to decide about the location of Michelangelo’s David. Among the participants were also Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi, Perugino and Piero di Cosimo. It was decided that David should replace Donatello’s Judith in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, which happened on 8. September 1873 (now the statue is in Galleria Accademia, in 1910 marble replica was placed instead)
17. May 1510
died in Florence.