Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) Automatic translate
Unfortunately, there are very few reliable facts about the life of the greatest artist Alessandro da Marianno Vanni di Amedeo Filippepi, known to us under the name Sandro Botticelli. It is known that Alessandro was born in Florence in 1445 in the family of the tanner Marpano Filippepi and his wife Emeralda, who already had three sons Giovanni, Simone and Antonio. There is no exact information about how Alessandro received the nickname "Botticelli" ("keg"), which became his middle name. Perhaps this is what his parents called him in the family or one of his older brothers. The meager facts about the childhood of the great artist only say that the fourth son of the tanner grew up a very observant, curious, but painful boy.
At about thirteen, Sandro began to study jewelry under the leadership of his brother Antonio, who had his own workshop. Jewelry art, with its meticulous and meticulous drawing of all the details of a future product at the sketch stage, captured the young man’s heart and helped him understand his true calling. So, already in the early 1460s, Botticelli began to visit the workshop of one of the most famous Italian painters of his time, Fra Filippo Lippi (c. 1406-1469).
Fra Filippo had a rich and unusual biography. For more than ten years he was in the order of Carmelite monks, abandoned by him in 1431. Already a famous artist, Lippi, in 1456, inflamed an unrestrained passion for the young nun Lucretia Buti. He abducted his beloved from a convent in Prato to marry her. Only thanks to the intercession of the patron saint of the painter, Duke Cosimo de Medici, the newlyweds were able to live in relative safety. Such an unusual life left a noticeable imprint on the character of the master, he was distinguished by his free thought and constant desire for perfection and discoveries. Ironically, the son of Lippi and Lucretia Filippino, with whom Sandro had known from an early age, later became his pupil.
Giorgio Vasarn, who was involved in the compilation of the biography of Botticelli, described the years of his training in such a way: "He became a follower of his teacher and imitated him so much that Fra Filippo loved him and soon raised him to such an extent that no one could think of." Unfortunately, this is the only information about this period of the artist’s life.
Filippo Lippi’s revolutionary work “The Madonna under the Veil” (1465, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), painted as an altar image for one of the churches of Florence, in which for the first time in the history of Italian Renaissance art a young woman from Florence appeared in the form of the Mother of God, amazed young Botticelli before so much so that he created many such canvases. Sandro almost completely repeated this gentle and inspired work in his work “Madonna and Child with an Angel” (1465-1467, Gallery of the Educational Home, Florence). This painting completely repeats the composition of Lippi, absolutely accurately reproducing all the details, up to the location of the folds of the veil covering the head of the Madonna. A very similar composition have several other works by the artist.
It should be noted that by copying the composition of the teacher, the young artist introduced new intonations into his work. His image of the Madonna is more thoughtful and peaceful. In order not to distract the viewer from the heroes of the canvas, Botticelli abandoned the complex landscape background. Focus on the image, bearing a shade of divine greatness and unusually lyrical coloring, has become a characteristic feature of many of the artist’s early works.
Having fully comprehended the accuracy and sophistication of Lippi’s drawing, and adopting his manner of conveying the emotional state of the characters, Sandro left his workshop in 1467, at the age of twenty-two. But the painter did not finish his training on this. In order to expand and improve his skills, the young painter visited the workshop of Andrea Verrocchio, the famous Italian sculptor, painter and jeweler, whose students included Leonardo da Vinci and Pietro Perugino.
If he learned from Lippi Botticelli the virtuoso mastery of the line, from Verrocchio he adopted the art of creating a special atmosphere through light-air modeling. With the help of knowledge borrowed from different teachers, Sandro brilliantly performed such works as Madonna in the Rosary (circa 1470, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), Madonna on the Loggia (circa 1467, Gallery Uffizi, Florence) and Madonna with the Baby and two angels ”(1468-1469, Capodimonte Museum, Naples). All the images in the canvases are unusually calm and sublimely sophisticated, and the compositional composition of the works is very thoughtful.
The artist’s early paintings are distinguished by the absence of a complex black-and-white modeling, the leading role in them is given to a drawing endowed with an expressive impulse. With the help of only one line, Botticelli revealed and as if transformed the immaculately clean and bright face of his divine prayers, emphasizing refinement, nobility and their belonging to another, more exalted world. Working on these images, the painter did not seek to show the real world, but some ideal, dreaming country that existed only in his imagination. Already in the first independent works of Botticelli appeared fascinating plastic, which will forever determine the individual style of the painter.
Having left his last teacher in 1469, Botticelli sets up his own workshop in his father’s house, which was located in the Via Maria Novella district of Santa Maria Novella. During this period, the artist creates his famous altarpiece “Altar of Ambrogio” (also known as the “Madonna and Child with Saints Mary Magdalene, John the Baptist, Francis, Catherine of Alexandria, Kozma and Damian”, 1467-1470, Uffizi Gallery, Florence).
The composition of the picture is very typical for that time and is a variation on the biblical theme of “Adoration of the Baby”. Mary with the Baby in her arms sits in the center of the canvas, around which the saints are located. The fact that the great martyrs Kozma and Damian are among the worshipers of the infant Jesus and His mother may indicate that the painting could have been commissioned by the ruling house of the Medici in Florence at that time, whose heavenly patrons were these saints. It is striking that the mathematical accuracy with which Botticelli calculated the color construction of the picture, masterfully distributing red, violet-blue, blue and brown colors is striking. Using bright accents, the artist highlighted the figures of the main characters: Madonna, Baby Jesus, Kozma and Damian. At the same time, the architectural background of the canvas seems flat and theatrical, due to the complete lack of perspective.
It is known for certain that in 1470 Sandro Botticelli finally received his, possibly, first official order. The canvas depicting an allegorical image of “Strength” (Uffizi Gallery, Florence) was to enter the cycle of paintings “Virtues”, designed to decorate the backs of chairs in the main courtroom of the Commercial Court.
This order played a big role in the artist’s career, as he allowed him to enter the circle of Florentine painters close to the Medici family. Botticelli performed it, focusing on the tastes of his era. He depicted on the canvas a female figure whose image personifies moral strength and, rather, a kind of melancholy thoughtfulness rather than decisiveness. The allegory of “Strength” in the interpretation of Botticelli, oddly enough, absolutely does not carry courageous energy. Moreover, her figure with a slight tilt of her head, emphasized by the graceful movement of her hands holding the rod powerlessly, creates a feeling of internal fragility, and even brokenness. Even despite the fact that the heroine of the work sits in a comfortable chair, her pose still gives the impression of instability.
In the interpretation of the folds, the general modeling of the female figure and the meticulous study of the decorative elements of the throne, the influence of Verrocchio is clearly read. But already in this picture their own “artistic finds” of a very young master are also manifested: a certain elongation of proportions, delicacy in creating the face and a special graceful plastic movement.
Like many Renaissance artists, Botticelli often betrayed to his heroes direct portrait resemblance to people he knew - friends, customers, and maybe lovers. For example, it is difficult not to notice that the heroine of the painting “Strength”, the Virgin Mary from the altar image “Madonna and Child with Two Angels”, as well as St. Catherine from the altarpiece “Altar of Sant’Ambrogio” are unusually similar. Art historians suggest that for all these works, the artist used the same real model that lived in Florence at that time.
Having already gained some recognition among contemporaries, Botticelli in 1472 joined the Guild of St. Luke, thereby declaring himself as a free master. The artist opened a large workshop in which he gathered assistants and apprentices. Filippino Lippi was one of his first students.
Between 1470 and 1472, Botticelli created the so-called “Madonna of the Eucharist” (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston). Almost completely repeating the compositional construction of “Madonna and Child with Two Angels,” the artist focused on the symbolic interpretation of the plot.
The Madonna with the Baby in her arms stands against the backdrop of a landscape visible behind the architectural elements. John the Baptist stands in front of them, holding in his hands a dish with ears of corn and grapes, serving as symbols of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The presence in the picture of these elements gave it a name. Although religious symbolism, extremely common in the art of that time, is quite common in works of the XV-XVI centuries, it was not typical of the works of Botticelli as well as landscape backgrounds in the background of his paintings. Perhaps these elements were inspired by the early paintings of Leonardo da Vinci.
The canvas "St. Sebastian" (1473, State Museum, Berlin) was created by Botticelli for the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The work is made in accordance with classical traditions and therefore, is positively received by the Florentines. The following year, on the day of St. Sebastian, the picture was presented to the general public on the column of the church for which it was created - a fact that says that the artist gained a certain fame in his native city. There is evidence that in 1474 the painter was invited to Pisa to create murals at the Camposanto cemetery, located next to the Cathedral of Pisa. It is not known why, but Botticelli did not fulfill his obligations and returned to Florence.
A decisive role in the fate of the great painter was played by one of his best works “Adoration of the Magi” (1473, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), commissioned by the banker Giovanni (Gaspra) di Zanobi Lamy. Truly beautiful work was intended to decorate the Lamy chapel, located in the church of the Site of Maria Novella. The customer was a very influential person in Florence and had warm friendly relations with representatives of the Medici family. It is not difficult to notice that among the heroes of the religious scene depicted by the painter, there are explicit portraits of members of this family name. It turns out that the banker introduced Botticelli to the Medici court, so that the artist would include in the composition of the biblical plot a group portrait of representatives of the Florentine elite.
The central place in the composition, in accordance with all the accepted canons, is occupied by the holy family - the Virgin Mary, Jesus and Joseph. They are surrounded by several rows of representatives of the three generations of the Medici, close to Lorenzo the Magnificent and Botticelli himself, who came to bow to the Baby. All the characters on the canvas are somewhat idealized and are, rather, a hint of a specific person, rather than his portrait copy. Nevertheless, this was quite enough for the contemporaries of the artist.
For example, in the figure of an old man, respectfully touching the Infant’s legs, contemporaries easily recognized the late Cosimo Medici. The first biographer of Botticelli, Vasari, writes about this: “And we see special expressiveness in the old man, who, kissing the feet of our Lord and melting with tenderness, perfectly shows that he achieved the goal of his long journey. The figure of this king is a full-time portrait of Cosimo the Elder de Medici, the most lively and the most similar of all that have survived to this day. ” Next to the old man, we see the Magi kneeling before Jesus - these are the late sons of Cosimo - Giovanni and Pierrot. And on the left side of the picture is the grandson of Cosimo Lorenzo Medici. Lorenzo is surrounded by his best friends - the philosopher Pico della Mirandola, pointing with his hand to the holy family and the poet Lngelo Polppsapo, who bowed his head on Lorenzo’s shoulder.
In the center of the group, located on the right side of the canvas, we see the younger brother of Lorenzo, who was his co-ruler - Giuliano, dressed in a dark cloak. Behind him is an old man, most likely a philosopher Giovanni Argiropulo, just above the philosopher is an elderly man in blue clothes, pointing to himself with a finger - this is the customer of the work, the banker Lamp. Botticelli himself is in the foreground of the picture, wrapped in a golden ocher cloak.
This work won the painter not only fame, but also the goodwill of representatives of one of the noblest and most influential families in Florence, thus involving him in turbulent historical events. When, on April 26, 1478, during a solemn mass in the Cathedral of Florence, a native of the Nazzi family made an almost successful assassination attempt on the Medici brothers. As a result, Giuliano died, and Lorenzo, although he remained alive, was forced to urgently flee the city.
Later, when Lorenz Medici completely regained his position, he first ordered the arrest and execution of absolutely all members of the family of the Nation, without making an exception to anyone. Then, the Medici ordered Botticelli to paint portraits of the executed walls of his palace, as a warning to those who dare to encroach on the life of representatives of his family. Despite the strangeness of the order, he helped strengthen the reputation of the painter, who thus received a special arrangement of Lorenzo himself. These amazing murals have not reached our days.
For the next few years, Botticelli was exclusively involved in the numerous orders of his new patrons. Most of the master’s work was intended to decorate the luxurious Medici villa in Castello. The artist’s two most famous works - “Spring” (1478, Uffizi Gallery, Florence) and “The Birth of Venus” (1484, Uffizi Gallery, Florence) belong to this calm and fertile period of Sandro’s life.
Working on the creation of his "Spring", the artist drew inspiration from "Fasti" - Ovid’s poetic calendar. The complex compositional construction of the work is composed of several separately arranged groups, interconnected only by internal movement. At the same time, thanks to precisely these details, as well as the rhythm of the canvas, which, like invisible music, permeates the work, the image becomes one and whole.
On the right side of the picture, Botticelli located a winged Marshmallow. Struck by the extraordinary beauty of the nymph Chloris, the god of the wind is trying to captivate her in order to forcibly marry her. But, having repented of their deeds, Zephyr turns his beloved into Flora, which we see in the same group of heroes. The painter captures the very moment of the beginning of the Transformation: the figure of Chloris seems to merge into his next incarnation. The fact that the clothes of these two female figures are masterfully painted by the master flutter in different directions, suggests that these two images are not yet connected and are, as it were, in different spaces of being.
Young beautiful Flora easily steps forward, literally showering the entire surrounding space with delicate flowers, symbolizing the arrival of spring. In the center of the composition is an elegant figure of Venus against a background of dark greenery. Her dress is made of the finest fabric, sewn with gold threads. The fact that she is the goddess of love, emphasizes the symbolic luxurious scarlet cloak that complements her outfit.
The image of Venus in the canvas is interpreted by Botticelli, like the images of the Virgin Mary created by him earlier. The face of the Greek goddess expresses sadness, modesty and shyness, and her head itself, slightly inclined to the right, is covered with a very thin gas veil that only emphasizes these qualities.
The winged golden-eyed Cupid soars above Venus, aiming from his bow into a group of divinely beautiful graces dancing on the left side of the canvas. A snow-white silk blindfold, tied to the eyes of a mischievous little one, is designed to prevent him from making an accurate shot. Thanks to this touching character, Botticelli directs our attention to a group of three nymphs (the symbolic meaning of which is read from right to left, like Beauty, Chastity and Pleasure), slowly circling in a round dance.Their slender bodies have emphasized elongated proportions, and graceful and smooth movements form a clearly built, rhythmic circular movement. Easy turns and bends of figures of three graces, graceful connection of their hands and feet convey the forward rhythm of the dance.
Possible models for the figures of girls are the beauties Simonetta Vespucci and Katerina Sforza, the last of which is depicted as Beauty. Creating images of forest beauties, the painter shows ingenuity in the image of their hairstyles. In one of the graces, the hair is gathered in a bun, in the other it flows on the shoulders with light waves, and in the third, its back is covered with a free golden stream.
At the left edge of the picture, next to the dealers, is the messenger of the gods Mercury. His gaze, aimed at the sky, directs the viewer’s attention to a thundercloud threatening this blessed paradise. With a light but confident gesture, the young man does not allow him to penetrate into the wonderful garden, in which the densely interwoven branches of orange trees reinforce the single rhythm of the entire work, which Botticelli is unusually skillfully built.
The artist showed utmost care and accuracy in the image of the various varieties of plants depicted in the picture. He rather carefully studied everything that grew in the spring in the vicinity of Florence. So, the researchers "identified" on the canvas over fifty species of herbs and flowers. Only in a wreath on Flora’s head and her necklace cornflowers, daisies, hellebore, lilies of the valley, myrtle leaves, periwinkles, forget-me-nots, pomegranate flowers, poppy seeds, buttercups, violets, flowers and berries of strawberries are clearly visible.
This fact shows that Botticelli carefully thought out not only the complex rhythmic decisions of the compositions of his works, but also their every detail, up to the subtle logical thoughtfulness of the location of all the actors, subject to strict regularity.
Another masterpiece of the master - “The Birth of Venus”, is written in a slightly different manner. The painting, which is one of the most famous works of art in the world, like Spring, has a poetic prototype that served as an inspiration to the artist. The literary landmarks of the painting are the texts of Homer, the “Stans” by Poliziano and the works of Virgil.
Unlike “Spring”, in the painting “The Birth of Venus” we see not a limited corner of the Garden of Eden, as if hidden from the world by dense vegetation, but the open space of the sky and the sea. Botticelli depicted the period of the early morning, when the just scattered night haze presented the beautiful Venus to the world. The Goddess of Beauty, just born from the foam of the sea, stands on a huge sea shell, driven to the shore by a blow of Zephyrs. The appearance of Beauty on earth is triumphant - roses fly under her feet, and the goddess Oro hurries to meet her, carrying a young beauty a precious cloak, with delicate flowers embroidered on it.
The compositional structure of the picture is quite simple and clear. Venus herself serves as the embodiment of ideal beauty, her features strike with impeccability and harmony. Like many female images of Botticelli, the shadow of sadness lies on the face of Venus, only emphasized by the strands of golden hair developed by the wind. The whole pose of the goddess resembles the famous ancient statue of Venus Pudik (from Latin - “modest, chaste, bashful”), also known as Venus de Medici.
The composition of the composition is dominated by a subtle linear rhythm that imparts movement to all the forms depicted, giving them volume and creating the illusion of space and depth. Transparent, cold and light color, which is dominated by pale color combinations (pale green tones of the sea, golden hair of Venus, blue clothes of marshmallows, a white dress and a dark crimson cloak of a nymph meeting her), give the work a special harmony and expressiveness. This work, like Spring, has become one of the most famous paintings of the painter.
October 27, 1480, Botticelli, along with artists Cosimo Rosselli, Pietro Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and others makes a trip to Rome, where they were invited by Pope Sixtus IV, to decorate the frescoes of the "Great Chapel", later called the Sistine.
By this time, the glory of the artist was already so great that Sixtus IV put him at the head of other painters involved in the work. Given that contemporaries above all other works appreciated precisely the artist’s performed compositions “Punishment of the Rising Levites”, “Three Temptations of Christ” and “Youth of Moses”, this was justified. The frescoes of the master perfectly complemented one of the largest and most solemn monumental ensembles of the 15th century. The works are striking in their fast-paced action, dynamism and emotion of images.
The magnificent fresco “The Youth of Moses” (1480-1482, Sistine Chapel, Rome) is one of the most monumental works of the master and tells the story of the Old Testament character Moses, whose mission was the removal of Jews from Egypt. Botticelli depicted several scenes from the life of the biblical hero, which occurred at different times and included by the artist in one composition. Such an approach to the construction of the painting indicates the painter’s attraction to the earlier famous examples of monumental art. Events in the work develop from right to left: here Moses kills the Egyptian; then, fleeing from the revenge of the pharaoh, he comes to the country of Midian, where he helps to feed the sheep to the daughters of Joseph; then, Moses takes off his sandals to go to the burning bush, from which the Lord called to him, laying on him the mission of salvation from the captivity of his people.The last episode shows the exodus from Egypt of the sons of Israel. Despite the seemingly excessive congestion of the composition, each of the scenes is easily singled out from the general series. All images are interpreted very conditionally and with great imagination of the artist. The viewer is presented with a rather idealized ancient world in which many heroes are dressed in modern Botticelli costumes. All character images are emphasized harmonious and beautiful.
The fresco “Punishment of the Levites” (1481-1482, Sistine Chapel, Rome) consists of several scenes. On the left side are the Levites, who intend to stone Moses, then there is a scene of smoking the censer of the high priest Aaron, the flame of which, with a wave of the baton of Moses, burns the rebellious. The composition is closed by a group of apostates, which the earth itself absorbs. The semantic content of the fresco was supposed to contribute to the establishment of papal authority. As a sign of respect for the customer, the artist often depicted an oak on the frescoes - the heraldic symbol of Sixtus IV and the color combination of his coat of arms - blue and yellow. All biblical scenes unfold against the backdrop of magnificent landscapes.
The work “The Three Temptations of Christ” (1481-1482, Sistine Chapel, Rome), also created by Botticelli for the Roman chapel, depicts Gospel episodes (Matthew: 4, Luke: 4), telling about the temptation of Jesus by the Devil. In the first plot, located in the upper left corner, he offers Christ to turn stones into bread, receiving the answer: “Man will not live by bread alone”; the central part of the composition depicts them standing on the roof of the temple, where the Tempter persuades the Son of the Lord to rush down; the third plot, located in the upper left corner, depicts a scene where the Devil asks Jesus to bow to him.
The scenes themselves were created by Botticelli small in size, and the whole foreground of the work is occupied by the ritual of cleansing the leper. In this work, as in The Adoration of the Magi, the artist depicts his contemporaries, who, in his plan, are witnesses to the ongoing purification. It is believed that in the lower left corner of the composition depicts a self-portrait of Botticelli and a portrait of his student and friend Filippino Lippi. On the opposite side is the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, Girolamo Riario, wrapped in a red cloak.
As the painter’s biographer, Vasari, Botticelli wrote, working on the murals in the chapel, “gained the greatest fame and glory, and from the pope get a decent amount of money, which he immediately squandered and squandered while he was in Rome, because he lived his life as usual careless. In the fall of 1482, all the frescoes were finished, and the painters who worked on them left Rome and went to their native Florence. ”
Success and fame
The workshop of Botticelli, which had already achieved the greatest fame, was overflowed with a huge number of orders in the 1480s, which the artist had no way to handle on his own, therefore, all the main part of the work was done by his students, who perfectly imitated the artist’s picturesque style. During this grace period, Botticelli receives a new order from his patron Lorenzo di Pierre Francesco Medici.
The work “Pallas and the Centaur” (1482, Uffizi Gallery, Florence) was to demonstrate to the whole world and descendants how strong and powerful the Medici dynasty was and how wisely it ruled Florence. At the request of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the work was performed as an allegory of the "golden age" of Florence, from the time of the Medici.
Botticelli, of his own free will, further expanded the scope of the plot, adding to it the idea of the struggle between good and evil. The composition of the picture is based on contrast - contrasting the beautiful image of the goddess to the ugly Centaur. The Pallas dress is richly decorated with emblems of the Medici house. The goddess is depicted against the backdrop of a beautiful landscape with a clear and deep sky above her head. Behind the Centaur, we see dilapidated ancient buildings symbolizing ignorance and chaos.
The inspiration for the creation of this canvas is believed to have served as the ideas of the philosopher Marsilio Ficino: "The beast in us is instinct, the person in us is reason." This assumption adds another possible interpretation of the work: Botticelli visually divides a person into two principles: the divine, connected with the sphere of the spirit, high aspirations and reason, and the animal - representing exclusively the needs of the physical body. From the point of view of such an interpretation of the plot, the gesture of Pallas becomes the personification of its power over natural instincts. An interesting fact is that the Centaur’s face portrays deep suffering - an expression characteristic of the image of saints in Botticelli’s paintings.
The work “Venus and Mars” (1482-1483, National Gallery, London), is another multifaceted work of the master. The hornet’s nest with insects circling around it, depicted in the upper right corner of the composition, indicates that the painting was commissioned by a representative of the Vespucci house, of which it is the heraldic symbol of the genus. A possible reason for writing this canvas was the wedding of one of the members of the house. The entire first plan, elongated horizontally, is occupied by the figures of Venus, reclining in thought, and the relaxed, sleeping Mars. Right behind them with the weapons of the formidable god of war are little satyrs.
In Florence, the second half of the XV century, astrology became widespread, so the characters depicted on the canvas can be interpreted as an allegorical image of the planets, and not just the Olympic gods. The color of the work is distinguished by majestic restraint, and the canvas itself breathes peace. Compositional construction is light and very balanced.
In 1485, Botticelli created another amazing work - “The Altar of Bardi” (State Museum, Berlin). The altar image, whose full name sounds like “Madonna and John the Baptist and John the Evangelist”, was painted by the order of Giovanni Agnolo Bardi and was intended for his family chapel in the church of Santo Spirito.
Strict canonicity is distinguished by the compositional construction of this work of the master. In the center of the picture, on the ornate throne, the Queen of Heaven sits, with the Baby in her arms, on both sides of it are the saints - John the Baptist and John the Theologian. All figures are located on the background of a garden gazebo with three arches, which likens the images to antique statues.
The Bardi Altar is very different from other, earlier works by Botticelli. All lines are fine-tuned and clear, even somewhat rigid, which is clearly noticeable in the "ornament" formed by foliage. The Image of the Madonna, which the artist previously depicted very majestically and solemnly, is filled with completely new intonations. Here, we see first of all a mother, full of anxiety and sadness, in anticipation of the difficult fate of her son. Especially fragile are the facial features and elongated hands of Mary, emphasizing her unearthly image. A significant role in the work is played by theological symbols hinting at the incarnation of Christ - lilies, olives, palms and laurels.
Such compositions attract the artist more and more, starting from the 1480s. It is the altar images that he most carefully studies himself, choosing them among the many incoming orders. The most outstanding works of this period are The Altar of St. Barnabas (another name is Madonna on the Throne with Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Augustine, Barbara, John the Baptist, Ignatius and Archangel Michael, circa 1487, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), Madonna with pomegranate ”(circa 1487, Uffizi Gallery, Florence) and“ Madonna Magnificat ”(another name is“ The Majesty of the Madonna ”, circa 1483-1485, Uffizi Gallery, Florence).
Thanks to these and other works, the fame of Botticelli thundered throughout Italy. There is a known case when the Duke of Milan inquired who is the best painter in Florence, and heard a definite answer - Botticelli, "who can perfectly write both on the wall and on the board, and whose paintings are extraordinary in strength and perfect proportions."
The portrait, although it was not a favorite genre of the painter, still occupied a significant place in his work. In the images of his contemporaries, Botticelli strove to adhere to the prevailing traditions of the Florentine profile portrait, although he sometimes allowed himself to bring into the work some of the achievements of the Dutch masters. Not all the works now attributed to the painter can be considered his own work. Most likely, some of them were written by his students. The earliest portrait attributed to the brush of the great Botticelli is the “Portrait of a Young Man” (1470, Palatine Gallery, Florence). Depicted on it is a very young Florentine, with big eyes arrogantly looking at the viewer, wearing a red jacket and a traditional dark cherry color cappuccino. A young man stands against a transparent blue sky.
Around 1474, Botticelli wrote the mysterious Portrait of an Unknown Person with the Cosimo Medici Elder Medal (Uffizi Gallery, Florence). The work has a number of features. So, a young man pictured against a magnificent spring landscape, with both hands presses a medal to his chest with a portrait of Cosimo Medici engraved on it. Botticelli somewhat idealized the image of the model, softening its features, while emphasizing its characteristic features - a clear contour of the face contour and a clear direct look. Intense black and red colors, in the costume of the person portrayed, create an unusually strong color chord. The surrounding landscape brings in emotional overtones. The whole intonation of the work gives out tension - obvious unnaturalness in turning the head, a sad look, an uncertain gesture of hands and a sharp color contrast of the hero’s background and clothes.
Compositionally, the construction of works has been changing since the second half of the 1470s. The painter no longer uses the landscape background, and the entire surrounding space is greatly simplified, while the figure of the model, usually located in three quarters or a profile, occupies almost the entire space of the picture. Female portraits are clearly idealized, for example, “Portrait of Simoneta Vespucci” (circa 1480, State Museum, Berlin), and the models are mainly located in profile. The four surviving versions of Portrait of Giuliano Medici (National Gallery of Washington, Carrera Academy in Bergamo, Armchair Collection in Milan and the State Museum in Berlin) are distinguished by a very peculiar style of writing. It is not known for certain whether at least one of these works belongs to the brush of Botticelli himself.The compositional construction of all versions of the portrait of Giuliano is almost identical. The model is always located almost in profile against a light background. A thin, smooth line is the main means of expression.
Most of the portraits owned by Botticelli, was characterized by a special melancholy intonation. The identities of most of the young men depicted by the master remained unknown to us. Although, the painter preferred to paint people whom he knew well or admired for their spiritual qualities. In portraits executed in the years 1482-1490, the artist’s desire for a more realistic interpretation of the image is manifested. Portraits of the master’s brush become more psychological, innovations also appear in compositional construction, for example, in the painting “Portrait of a Young Man” (circa 1483, National Gallery, London), the model is located in front of the portraitist.
The turbulent political events in Florence in the early 1490s significantly influenced the life of Sandro Botticelli. In 1492, Lorenzo the Magnificent died. Piero Medici, who inherited power from his father, turned out to be a mediocre ruler, who brought the entire Medici home into exile from his hometown due to a number of gross political mistakes. As a result, a fierce fighter for faith and asceticism came to power, the Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola.
Savonarola has long opposed the tyranny of the Medici family, accusing him of corruption and excessive love of luxury and debauchery. Even the Pope came from a fierce champion of faith, the fiery sermons of the monk resonated in the souls of many citizens, which later brought Savonarola to power. I must say that the people really voluntarily followed the monk, apparently tired of the luxurious lifestyle of their rulers, even in the heart of Botticelli, the Dominican was able to raise doubts about the loyalty of the chosen creative path. There was no one to support the painter, his students and friends were also impressed by the new ruler, and his beloved brother Giovanni died. As a result, the artist took a wait-and-see position, not joining either side of the conflict between Savonarola and the Medici.
The militant monk arranged a real "day of judgment" for Florence. On February 7, 1497, a fire was kindled in Signoria Square, in which the townspeople, impressed by the Dominican sermon, burned musical instruments, jewelry, luxurious women’s dresses, paintings that did not meet Christian morality, as well as those condemned by Savonarola as the embodiment of sin. This day became fatal for the history of art - many young artists, including students of Botticelli himself, brought and threw their works into the “purifying flame”. The painter did not directly participate in the act of repentance of "sinners", perhaps because his weakened legs no longer allowed him to walk independently.
The reign of Savonarola was not very long, on May 23, 1498, the people of Florence burned the slandered monk with the same fanaticism with which he burned magnificent works of art a year earlier. Oddly enough, on Botticelli, the execution of the Dominican made an even greater impression than his sermons. The painter began to be tormented by guilt and bouts of hopelessness, his soul rushed to the dream of religious renewal. As a result, doubts and pain in the soul of the artist made him unsociable. The fame of the master began to fade, orders became less and less.
In the late period of his work, Botticelli creates several paintings either commissioned by the devotees of Savonarola, or painted under the influence of his sermons. The latter include two altar images “Mourning of Christ” (1495, Museum of Poldi Pezzoli, Milan and 1500, Old Pinacoteca, Munich). The works stand out for the artist’s new interpretation of Christian drama - as intolerable human grief. All the characters depicted in these two works are gripped by endless grief over an innocent victim. By order of the “piagnoni” (literally “crybaby”) - adherents of Savonarola, the painter writes “The Last Communion of St. Isronim” (circa 1498, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) for Francesco del Puglieze; and "St. Augustine" (1490-1495, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), for Giacomo and Giovannidi Bernardo.These rare orders allowed the artist to somehow stay afloat.
In 1502, the master’s health was finally undermined. At this time, according to the slander of ill-wishers and envious people, a lawsuit was instituted against Botticelli on charges of his sodom sin. The most likely reason for such suspicion was that the painter had never entered into a legal marriage in his entire life. These events further complicated the life of the master, and eight years later, at the age of sixty-five, the great Sandro Botticelli passed away. He is buried in the cemetery at the Florentine church of Onis.
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