October 25, 2009

The Art of Sandro Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510) was highly successful at the peak of his career, although he spent the last decade of his life in obscurity because he was considered outmoded compared to the new generation of artists, such as Leonardo. Botticelli’s work was eventually rediscovered by the Pre-Raphaelites almost 500 year later and he is now one of the best-loved painters of 15th century early Italian Renaissance.

(Botticelli, Sandro. The Birth of Venus.c. 1485. tempera on canvas. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.)

During his apprenticeship with Filippo Lippi, Botticelli developed his graceful and ornamental linear style, harking back to elements of the Gothic period and ignoring anatomical realism. In his large scale painting, including the famous Primavera and The Birth of Venus, he treated mythological subjects with as much seriousness as religious themes.

(Botticelli, Sandro. Portrait of a Young Woman.c. 1480. tempera on panel. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.)

Although Botticelli is most famous for his secular subjects, his late years were almost entirely devoted to religious themes, influenced by the Dominican friar and preacher Savonaroloa. Other than the two years in Rome spent on the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, Botticelli remained in Florence all of his life.

(Botticelli, Sandro. Primavera.c. 1482. tempera on panel. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.)

Primavera was painted in tempera on a wooden panel, which was Botticelli’s usual technique, although sometimes he used a canvas instead as the media support and he often modified the standard tempera method by adding oil to the paint, perhaps to make it more fluid and transparent.

(Botticelli, Sandro. Cestello Annunciation.c. 1489-90. tempera on panel. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.)

By 1470 Botticelli was already established in Florence as an independent master with his own workshop. Absorbed in his art, he never married, and he lived with his family. He was a superb craftsman, who used only the finest available materials. He applied layer upon layer of paint to create extraordinary subtle effects of tone and luminosity and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy :)

Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing, 2008.