Botticelli- Renaissance Art
Alessandro Filipepi was born in 1445; the perfect time to be an artist. For the first time in hundreds of years, writers, poets, sculptors and painters were once again admired and respected. Culture was returning, and young Allessandro had the opportunity to spend an inordinate amount of time with the artists who frequented his brother's workshop. Botticello, Allessandro's older brother was a gold pounder. He "pounded" gold onto picture frames, and he added gold to the paintings of others (halos and angel wings). His younger brother watched, learned, and then began his own experimentation in the world of art.
As a young teenager, Allesandro was sent to apprentice in the workshop of the master painter, Filipo Lippi. It was there that he assisted Florence's greatest artist, and in turn, learned to mix colors, clean brushes, and prepare walls (frescos) for painting. He learned to draw; he learned to paint, and through the imitation of his teacher he found his own niche. His paintings evolved from looking very similar to Lippi's own, to becoming the paintings of someone who'd earned both his own name and his own glory; Allessandro Filipepi became Sandro Botticelli.
THE PAINTINGS OF SANDRO BOTTICELLI
THE YOUNG ARTIST
The Renaissance was a time of discovery and exploration, and Botticelli's time in the Lippi's workshop allowed him the chance to do both; he explored, and through that exploration he discovered. Influenced greatly by his teacher, Botticelli's initial artwork mirrored his master's. The colors, pale and muted; the meticulous flow of a garment; the faces full of life and beauty. All of these techniques were similar to Lippi's, but as time went on they became his own; he became an individual, and he became a true artist.
There were many artists in Florence, and Botticelli studied and learned from each of them. He was surrounded by greatness, and he spent hours earning his own. At the age of twenty-five Botticelli completed one of the first paintings that he was actually paid for, a panel that would reside in a meeting room frequented by the most important men in Florence; the painting was called Fortitude. Before long, Botticelli became Florence's favorite artist; he had no equal in his talent for mixing colors; he is in fact, one of the greatest colorists of all time. He was also a master of the rythmic line, using his paintbrush to outline the figures in his paintings. In doing this he used his paintbrush in the way we would use a pen or a pencil, and he believed these lines added a feeling of fluidity and movement.
Lorenzo de Medici was one of Botticelli's most famous and wealthiest patrons. Medici showed great interest in the artist and encouraged his friends to do the same. Because of Medici's patronage Botticelli had more work than he could handle, and it wasn't long before he found himself hiring other artists to help him keep up with the demand. His assistants not only helped put on the finishing touches, but would sometimes make copies of them as well. Unfortunately, some of his assistants took their copying a bit further than they should have by copying and selling Botticelli's work without his permission. Today, even experts find it hard to tell Botticelli's originals from the forgeries; he must have been an excellent teacher.
Botticelli separated himself from his peers in that his art took on what he imagined to be "ideal." Other painters of the Renaissance looked to the ancient Greek and Romans for inspiration. They studied science, nature, and the human body so that their paintings and sculptures would be as realistic as possible. Rafael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo used perspective in their paintings, something that gave their artwork a three dimensional feel. Botticelli had no use for perspective, and he placed his own focus on that special kind of beauty seen through the imagination; it was the beauty of fantasy. His work may at times seem flat, and his portrayals may sometimes not seem quite as realistic as the next master, but a master he was, and his paintings are indeed beautiful.
The Adoration of the Magi
During the Renaissance, rulers and families of importance like to show off their wealth through their possessions, their homes, their clothes and the people they chose to associate with. Sometimes, families even competed with each other to be the patrons of the best painters, architects, and sculptors of the time. Ironically, it seems that some things never change.
Most Renaissance art depicts religious scenes, stories from the Bible, and other Christian ideas. Botticelli created many religious paintings for the churches in Florence, and for other Italian cities as well. Ironically, the paintings are sometimes as much about the patrons of the artist, as they are the scene they depict. Look closely at the Adoration of the Magi; the painting's focus is the newborn baby Jesus, and we can see that he and his mother Mary are surrounded by visitors, but what we wouldn't know is that most of all of the visitors are in fact Lorenzo di Medici's family members. The importance and power of the family are shown in the midst of a religious theme, and anyone who'd seen the painting at that time would see that power and know it for what it was. Botticelli, he finds his way into the far right hand corner; we glimpse the man while he gazes at us..........
Botticelli was also well known for his paintings of mythological creatures, gods from the ancient Roman and Greek cultures; he loved depicting the fantastical images of the otherworld, and the people of the Renaissance were interested in the stories he had to tell. The paintings Primavera and the Birth of Venus are the perfect example his lighter side; they're like poetry, just sit back and enjoy.......... Primavera belongs to Venus, the goddess of love as she celebrates the coming of spring with Cupid and the host of nymphs and gods that surround them. The Birth of Venus once again finds what seem to be Botticelli's favorite goddess balanced on the tip of a seashell as she's blown towards the shore; the other characters in the painting seem to be floating as they help her along on her way, seeing her safely to wherever it is she wants to be.
The Sistine Chapel
Botticelli was a Florentine, and the love he had for his home can be seen in the fact that in all of his life he only left the city of Florence once to visit Rome. His stay was brief, but what he accomplished while there was history.
In 1481, Botticelli traveled to Rome at the request of Pope Sixtus IV, and it was there he joined a number of other Florentine and Umbrian artists who'd been summoned to fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Botticelli was denied any input as to the content of his artwork, but before leaving the Vatican a year later he had completed three major frescoes; The Youth of Moses, the Punishment of the Sons of Corah, and the Temptation of Christ. Aside from these three very important works, Botticelli also completed at least seven papal portraits which were hung in what was called the "window zone."
THE LATER YEARS
During Botticelli's lifetime he created a multitude of religious paintings, but as I've already stated, there was a part of his artistry that leaned towards tales of mythology, and the mysteries of the imagination. In the 1490's, things in Florence changed and so did Botticelli.
In his later years, Botticelli became a follower of the Dominican Priest Savonarola, and the priest's influence transformed his life. Savonarola vehemently preached against the corruption of the clergy, encouraged book burning, and destroyed what he considered immoral paintings. He became a leader in Florence, preaching against worldliness and excess. Botticelli embraced Savonarola, his teachings, and his beliefs to the extent that the burned many of his own paintings disgusted by their pagan themes. For awhile, he focused only on religion and the way he could glorify the creator through his art, but unfortunately, the time would come when he deserted his painting altogether.
Botticelli died in 1510, at the age of 65, but he lives on through the legacy he left behind; it's quite a legacy.
Botticelli's paintings were forgotten for hundreds of years before they were re-discovered during the late 1800's. Today, the newfound interest in his work has given us a beauty we'd never have seen without the intricate removal of dirt and extensive cleaning that his paintings have endured. How many artists have been forgotten, and how many have never been heard of? Botticelli, he may have been forgotten once, but I doubt he'll ever be forgotten again. I, for one, am glad he's back!