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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Botticelli, Sandro


The Adoration of the Magi
c.1476
Tempera on panel
111 × 134 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy

The Adoration of the Magi theme was popular in the Renaissance Florence. It depicts a famous scene, where the three Magi, or kings, bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to lay before a baby Jesus. Botticelli was commissioned to paint at least seven versions of The Adoration of the Magi. The work was commissioned by Gaspare di Zanobi del Lama, a banker of humble origins and dubious morality connected to the House of Medici, for his chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella (now destroyed).

In the scene are present numerous characters among which are several members of the Medici family: Cosimo de' Medici (the Magus kneeling in front of the Virgin), his sons Piero (the second Magus kneeling in the center with the red mantle) and Giovanni (the third Magus), and his grandsons Giuliano and Lorenzo. The three Medici portrayed as Magi were all dead at the time the picture was painted, and Florence was effectively ruled by Lorenzo. Botticelli also included a portrait of himself, in the yellow robe in the bottom right corner of the painting.

Alessandro Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, (c.1445-1510) began his career during the Italian Renaissance period. He was born in Florence around 1445 where he would live out the rest of his life. As the youngest of five children, Botticelli’s father, a tanner, allowed him to become an apprentice to a goldsmith. During this apprenticeship, the goldsmith he worked with gave him the name Botticelli, meaning ‘small wine cask’. After a time, Botticelli convinced his father that he wanted to study painting and was chosen to be apprentice to the well known painter Fra Filippo Lippi. Botticelli quickly became recognized as a gifted artist under Lippi, and by the time he was 15 years old, he was able to open a workshop dedicated to his own work.
Botticelli stressed line and detail using them to bring his characters alive - as if acting out a scene. He included in his style a flowing characteristic and Neo-Platonism. This meant that he would bring together in one painting ideas that belong to both Christianity and pagan ideas which may have included mythology. In 1481, he was invited to Rome to take part in the painting of the Sistine Chapel. He joined artists such as Perugino, Ghirlandaio and then Michelangelo in contributing to the most well known piece of Italian art.

As Botticelli grew older, he became a follower of the monk Savonarola who was a prominent civic leader in Florence and Botticelli's style underwent a remarkable change. Many of his previous paintings were considered ungodly and were burned. When Savonarola’s popularity ended being burnt in the center of Florence, many followers fled the city but Botticelli stayed in Florence, and continued to paint. Botticelli’s later years seemed to be a disturbing time for him. As times changed in Florence, he often took on difficult commissions that other painters turned down. His rotating style reflected that he was struggling as a painter and his paintings were full of emotion. He died at the age of 65.

At the height of his fame, he was one of the most esteemed artists in Italy. His work was most in demand by the Medici family. After his death, his name all but disappeared until the late 19th century, his work lay forgotten for over 400 years after his death, when a developing appreciation for Florentine arts and culture brought about a renewed interest in his work. Since then his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting. Among his best known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

Botticelli never wed, and expressed a strong aversion to the idea of marriage. The popular view is that he suffered from an unrequited love for Simonetta Vespucci. According to popular belief, she had served as the model for The Birth of Venus and recurs throughout his paintings, despite the fact that she had died years earlier, in 1476. Botticelli asked that when he died, he be buried at her feet in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence. His wish was carried out when he died some 34 years later, in 1510. He was buried near her in the same church.