Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sandro Botticelli

Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli, was born on March 1, 1445 in Florence, Italy. Botticelli became apprenticed to a goldsmith at an early age and it was from this apprenticeship that he recieved the name Botticelli, which means "little barrel". However, when Botticelli expressed interest in painting, his father apprenticed him to an Italian painter named Fra Filippo Lippi. From Lippi, Botticelli learned the initmacy and tenderness that would be indicative of his later work. Botticelli quickly learned his master's techniques and soon became recognized as a gifted artist, opening up a workshop at the age of 15. Soon his own unique style evolved, one that was characterized by smoothness and often melancholy depictions.

During his career, Botticelli's works were popular with the Medici family and they were some of his most important patrons. In 1481, Botticelli was summoned to take part in the painting of the Sistine Chapel and later, in 1482 and 1485, he painted two of his most famous works, Primavera and Birth of Venus. As he grew older, he also became a follower of the monk, Savonarola, and many of his works took a religious turn. Unfortunately, it was during his later years that Botticelli's popularity declined, and when he died on May 17, 1510, his artwork was eclipsed by other up and coming artists, like Michelangelo. Despite this, it is clear that Botticelli was a great artist who contributed much to the Renaissance art as we know it.

Some of Botticelli's lesser known works, yet nonetheless beautiful, are his drawings. His main technique in painting was a panel painting and frescoes and his drawing style had a similar smooth and flowing feel, like the images below. Allegory of Abundance, dated from 1480-85 and Pallas, made in 1491, both show Botticelli's focus on facial expression and his somber style that borders on Gothic realism.

Allegory of Abundance, c. 1480-85
(taken from:
This drawing has the smooth flowing style often seen in Botticelli's greatest works and an interesting contrast of emotions between the woman and the children at her side.

Pallas, c. 1491
(taken from: Botticelli: From Lorenzo the Magnificent to Savonarola, 2003)
This drawing depicts Minverva holding a helmet. Like many of Botticelli's works, facial expressions are the focus of the piece and like Allegory, show sharply contrasting feelings.

Botticelli's Hypocrites, seen below, shows his shift later on in life to a more more religious, harsh style. Many of his works at this time were more violent and angry. This particular scene illustrates a part of Dante's Inferno, showing the fate of hypocrites in the afterlife.

(taken from:

I chose Botticelli because I love the graceful, yet melancholy figures in his works. In particular, I was attracted to the facial expression that seemed to express and invoke so much feeling. Though I first knew him as an painter, through works like the Birth of Venus, I came to also love his drawings and the depth of emotions that he was able to communicate through them.

-Annie Rachapudi

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