The Artist Sandro Botticelli

Alessandro Filipepi, commonly known as Sandro Botticelli, was born around 1445. He lived in the time of Lorenzo de Medici, “Il Magnifico.” Botticelli became an important figure in the early Italian Renaissance in Florence. First, he studied under a goldsmith named Botticelli and met professional artists. Soon his father sent him to study under the Renaissance painter, Fra Filippo Lippi.

In one of his earliest works, “La Primavera,” Botticelli created a mythological scene on a panel over 6 feet high. For this work and the “Birth of Venus,” Botticelli is credited as one of the first painters to make mythological paintings on a large scale since the Classical era. Most artwork of this size was previously completed in the 15th century for private residences by Flemish and French tapestry makers at a higher cost.

In “La Primavera” (c. 1482), Botticelli shows a considerable cast of characters from mythology. The human figures are floating, and their pale skin and golden-haired faces give them an angelic quality. Botticelli’s human figures have even been termed “Gothic” even though he was a true Renaissance man with a respect for Greco-Roman antiquity. The characters in “La Primavera” include Cupid, Venus, Mercury, three Graces, Flora, Chloris, and Zephyr.

The “Birth of Venus” (c. 1484-1486) is Botticelli’s other signature work. This time Venus is displayed in the nude. Her form is an adult woman true to the belief that she was born in a womanly body. Her long, golden hair flows down around the left side of her body to cover her delicate femininity. In a wind of roses, Zephyr and Chloris deliver her to her attendant. The change in setting from the first painting to the second painting is from the beautiful forest to the calm seashore.

Both “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus” are secular works commissioned for private patrons. Botticelli’s compositions represent the natural beauty of the physical environment as well as the ethereal quality of Venus. Here Botticelli shows the trend towards NeoPlatonism, a belief system described as mystical. Some Greeks studied under this school of thought until Emperor Justinian closed the Platonic Academy in 529 CE. NeoPlatonism, an attempt to blend Christian doctrine with Platonic philosophy, was important to Renaissance Humanists.

Botticelli also produced other paintings, including portraits and Christian themes. Two notable Catholic paintings are “Saint Sebastian” and “Adoration of the Magi.” From the artist we get the modern reference to “Botticelli’s angels.” Many believe that Botticelli was the most gifted painter of angels in the Renaissance. Botticelli died around 1510.