Botticelli, Sandro

Botticelli, Sandro
   Florentine painter most closely associated with the intellectual circle of Lorenzo de' Medici in the later 15th century. A pupil of Fra Filippo Lippi, in his own time he was renowned for his draftsmanship and for the beauty of his paintings. His works were influenced by contemporaries like Andrea Verocchio and Antonio del Pollaiuolo, but he developed a style distinctly his own, marked by shallow modelling of figures and lack of concern with deep space that seem to represent a deliberate rejection of the solidly three-dimensional pictures of earlier Renaissance painters. Botticelli painted many traditional religious scenes, such as the early The Adoration of the Magi, which reflects the influence of Lippi, and The Coronation of the Virgin, as well as a series of paintings executed at Rome in 1480-1482 as part of the original decoration of the Sistine Chapel. But he is best known for allegorical paintings depicting themes from classical mythology for the Medici circle, such as Primavera (ca. 1478) and The Birth of Venus (ca. 1485). The latter was perhaps the first depiction of a nude goddess since ancient times. These works were by no means intended to glorify ancient paganism but are allegories in which the figures embody the abstractions of the Neoplatonic philosophy fashionable in the Medicean circle. Especially as he became a "court painter" to Lorenzo, Botticelli's works took on some of the ethereal, otherworldly look of late-medieval court painting, yet they also bear clear traces of the influence of other Renaissance art. These allegorical works were created for an elite audience of insiders and if they had been put on public display would not have been meaningful to most Florentines.
   Botticelli's later paintings, however, done after the fall of the Medici from power in 1494 and after the artist had become attracted to the anti-Renaissance preaching of the friar Girolamo Savonarola, moved away from the ethereal mood of the allegories and also away from non-Christian themes. Eventually, Botticelli destroyed some of his worldly paintings and from about 1501 stopped painting altogether. By the early 16th century, Botticelli's work had lost its earlier popularity, and he was virtually forgotten until art historians in the 19th century rediscovered his work.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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