Brief Biography of a Famous and Influential Artist 10: Sandro Botticelli

Botticelli's Self Portrait

SANDRO BOTTICELLI (1445-1510)

Born: Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Pilipepi (better known as Sandro Botticelli) on an unknown date in Florence, Italy

Died: May 17, 1510 [age 64 or 65] in Florence, Italy

Most Famous Works: La Primavera, The Birth of Venus, and The Adoration of the Magi

Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Florentine School during the Early Renaissance movement.

Botticelli's The Adoration of the Magi

Details of Botticelli’s life are sparse, but we know that he became an apprentice when he was about fourteen years old, which would indicate that he received a fuller education than did other Renaissance artists. He was born in the city of Florence in a house in the Via Nueva, Borg’ Ognissanti. Vasari reported that he was initially trained as a goldsmith by his brother Antonio.

In one of his earliest works, “La Primavera,” Botticelli created a mythological scene on a panel over 6 feet high. For this work and the “Birth of Venus,” Botticelli is credited as one of the first painters to make mythological paintings on a large-scale since the Classical era. Most artwork of this size was previously completed in the 15th century for private residences by Flemish and French tapestry makers at a higher cost.

In “La Primavera” (c. 1482), Botticelli shows a considerable cast of characters from mythology. The human figures are

La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

floating, and their pale skin and golden-haired faces give them an angelic quality. Botticelli’s human figures have even been termed “Gothic” even though he was a true Renaissance man with a respect for Greco-Roman antiquity. The characters in “La Primavera” include Cupid, Venus, Mercury, three Graces, Flora, Chloris, and Zephyr.

The “Birth of Venus” (c. 1484-1486) is Botticelli’s other signature work. This time Venus is displayed in the nude. Her form is an adult woman true to the belief that she was born in a womanly body. Her long, golden hair flows down around the left side of her body to cover her delicate femininity. In a wind of roses, Zephyr and Chloris deliver her to her attendant. The change in setting from the first painting to the second painting is from the beautiful forest to the calm seashore.

Botticelli's The Birth of Venus

Botticelli also produced other paintings, including portraits and Christian themes. Two notable Catholic paintings are “Saint Sebastian” and “Adoration of the Magi.” From the artist we get the modern reference to “Botticelli’s angels.” Many believe that Botticelli was the most gifted painter of angels in the Renaissance.