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He was the son of a citizen in comfortable circumstances, and had been, in Vasari’s words, “instructed in all such things as children are usually taught before they choose a calling.” However, he refused to give his attention to reading, writing and accounts, continues Vasari, so that his father, despairing of his ever becoming a scholar, apprenticed him to the goldsmith Botticello: whence came the name by which the world remembers him. However, Sandro, a stubborn-featured youth with large, quietly searching eyes and a shock of yellow hair – he has left a portrait of himself on the right-hand side of his picture of the Adoration of the Magi – would also become a painter, and to that end was placed with the Carmelite monk Fra Filippo Lippi. But he was a realist, as the artists of his day had become, satisfied with the joy and skill of painting, and with the study of the beauty and character of the human subject instead of religious themes. Botticelli made rapid progress, loved his master, and later on extended his love to his master’s son, Filippino Lippi, and taught him to paint, but the master’s realism scarcely touched Lippi, for Botticelli was a dreamer and a poet. Botticelli is a painter not of facts, but of ideas, and his pictures are not so much a representation of certain objects as a pattern of forms. Nor is his colouring rich and lifelike; it is subordinated to form, and often rather a tinting than actual colour. In fact, he was interested in the abstract possibilities of his art rather than in the concrete. For example, his compositions, as has just been said, are a pattern of forms; his figures do not actually occupy well-defined places in a well-defined area of space; they do not attract us by their suggestion of bulk, but as shapes of form, suggesting rather a flat pattern of decoration. Accordingly, the lines which enclose the figures are chosen with the primary intention of being decorative. It has been said that Botticelli, “though one of the worst anatomists, was one of the greatest draughtsmen of the Renaissance.” As an example of false anatomy we may notice the impossible way in which the Madonna’s head is attached to the neck, and other instances of faulty articulation and incorrect form of limbs may be found in Botticelli’s pictures. Yet he is recognised as one of the greatest draughtsmen: he gave to ‘line’ not only intrinsic beauty, but also significance. In mathematical language, he resolved the movement of the figure into its factors, its simplest forms of expression, and then combined these various forms into a pattern which, by its rhythmical and harmonious lines, produces an effect upon our imagination, corresponding to the sentiments of grave and tender poetry that filled the artist himself. This power of making every line count in both significance and beauty distinguishes the great master- draughtsmen from the vast majority of artists who used line mainly as a necessary means of representing concrete objects.



Publié par
Date de parution 04 juillet 2023
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781783107704
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 3 Mo

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Text: Émile Gebhart and Victoria Charles

61A-63A Vo Van Tan Street
4 th Floor
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

© Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
© Confidential Concepts, Worldwide, USA

All modification and reproduction rights reserved internationally.
Unless otherwise stated, copyright for all artwork reproductions rests with the photographers who created them. Despite our research efforts, it was impossible to identify authorship rights in some cases. Please address any copyright claims to the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-78310-770-4

Sandro Botticelli
1. Self Portrait ( detail of the Adoration of the Magi ), 1500.
Tempera on wood, 111 x 134 cm .
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Botticelli’s Youth and Education
Botticelli’s First Works
The Medici and Botticelli’s Pagan Initiation
Pagan, Mystical, and Oriental Visions
Botticelli’s Waning Days
List of Illustrations
2. V irgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist as a Child (detail), c. 1468.
Tempera and oil on poplar, 90.7 x 67 cm .
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Botticelli’s Youth and Education

3. Sandro Botticelli (?), Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist , c. 1491-1493.
Tempera on panel, 47.6 x 38.1 cm .
Ishizuka Collection, Tokyo.
4. Virgin and Child with Two Angels, c. 1485-1495.
Tempera on panel, diameter: 32.5 cm .
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, also known as “di Botticello” in homage to his first master, and Sandro Botticelli to those who knew him, was born in Florence in 1445. Even though Vasari asserts he died in the city-state of Florence in 1515, he passed away on May 17 th , 1510. Shrewd and highly alert, he was endowed with a certain aristocratic grace, a typical child of the sophisticated class of Florentines. The rigid traditions of the old medieval Commune might well have restricted him to his professional guild or his quarter, or could have tied him to some modest manual occupation. He thus would have had a goldsmith’s workshop or a pharmacy in the shadow of his father’s house, or would have sold Psalters and rosaries on the Ponte Vecchio. On Sundays he might have sung endless Laudes amongst his companions of the Dominican clergy, and on occasion he would have donned his blue, black, or grey penitent cape and a yellow wax candle and would, without sadness, have followed the mortal remains of some neighbour to the nearest Campo Santo. A very narrow and humble destiny, which Florentines of the past had accepted indifferently, while the city, according to Dante sobria e pudica, lived happily in the untouchable sphere of its worldly traditions. But from the middle of the 15 th century, the bonds that tied the citizen and curbed his will and the fancies of his ambition began to crack. The Renaissance gave birth to a creature full of inclinations, “the Individual”, who now escaped the olden discipline. Encouraged by the Church, adulated by tyrants, republics, or art patrons, the quintessential Florentine art rose above the Arti Maggiori , higher still than the bankers, lawyers, wool or silk weavers. It was the art of the painter or sculptor, an aristocracy amongst the princedoms of the Quattrocento, a glory of which young boys were dreaming longingly as soon as they beheld and admired Giotto at Santa Croce, Masaccio at Carmine, Fra’ Filippo Lippi at the Cathedral of Prato, or Donatello at Orsanmichele.
Now the passion for beauty possessed the soul of Italy and ruled supreme over Florence. There was not a palace, not a church, not a monastery that was not a feast for the eyes and a solemn reminder of the Christian conscience in a dashing play of colours, magnificent garments, the grave demeanour of the figures and their postures, and the display of the most dignified scenes from the Old Testament or the Gospel.
An incessant popular pilgrimage brought citizens of the Mercato Vecchio and the farmers of the contado to those beautiful works of art every day. Here they found the image of their faith, the edifying liturgical dramas of the Rappresentazioni sacre : the stable of Bethlehem with the ox and the ass; the Wise Men prostrated in front of the manger, clad in purple and ermine, holding the golden incense burners; the painful episodes of the Passion, Jesus, covered in blood, crowned in thorns, crucified between two thieves, resurrected, victorious over death. It was here they greeted the patron saints of their city, village, parish, or friary. As often as ten times a day, a Florentine citizen would find himself lifting his cap in front of an icon of Saint John, clad poorly in a sheepskin, carrying his frail reed cross. Or maybe this citizen stopped at some hospital portico, or a cemetery pavilion, or in the courtyard of a rich Guelph mansion; and wherever he went he would be confronted with the symbols of his public life, even with a vision of his own dying hour. He would see processions and grand entrances of lords, tournaments and banquets, the trumpet of Judgment Day and the pale dead rising from their graves.
5. Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist as a Child , c. 1468.
Tempera and oil on poplar, 90.7 x 67 cm .
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
6. The Virgin Adoring the Child ,
1480-1490. Tempera on panel,
diameter: 58.9 cm . National Gallery
of Art, Washington, D.C.
7. Sandro Botticelli and assistants, The Virgin and Child with Saint John Adoring the Child, c. 1481-1482.
Tempera on panel, diameter: 95 cm .
Musei Civici di Palazzo Farnese, Piacenza.
8. The Annunciation, c. 1495-1500 (?).
Tempera on panel, 49.5 x 61.9 cm .
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.

From the 13 th century onward, painters became the pride of Florence. Cimabue’s grand Byzantine Madonna at Santa Maria Novella, so rigid still, and of such a sullen countenance, nonetheless stunned the dilettanti of the year 1260. When Charles I of Anjou crossed Tuscany on his way to Naples, the magistrates honoured the brother of Saint Louis between all the festivities and entertainment by taking him to visit Cimabue’s workshop in a garden near the Porta San Piero. All the noblemen, the high bourgeoisie, and the genteel ladies accompanied the French prince with such exclamations of joy that this quarter has since been called “Borgo Allegri”. To the sound of trumpets and bells, the Madonna was then taken from the painter’s house to the Rucellai chapel in a very solemn procession. Over the course of the 14 th century, the writings of Boccacio and Sacchetti began to reveal the freedom that the Florentine spirit gave to craftsmanship, to adventures and miseries, to the artists’ skill and wit, to Giotto’s jests, and to the practical jokes of the incomparable second-hand artist Buffalmaco. From the middle of the 15 th century, Florentine art itself assumed a national purpose. The patronage of the Medici, from Cosimo the Elder to Lorenzo the Magnificent, elevated the social standing of sculptors and painters who dedicated themselves to the embellishment of patrician life. In fact, all the princes and city-states of Italy borrowed Florence’s painters and sculptors, who were sent as missionaries of its genius to all the schools of the peninsula. The artists were received everywhere enthusiastically, regardless of their origins: Sixtus IV invited them to decorate the Sistine Chapel, Alexander VI left the rooms of the Vatican to the superb brush of the Umbrian Pinturicchio, who displayed the drunken revels of the Borgia without shame. The rigid pride of Julius II never bent except for when he faced the one and only Michelangelo. Leo x was seen kneeling and crying at Raphael’s deathbed…
It was thus that in less than fifty years, the Italian artist assumed an eminent place amongst the masters of civilisation. Like the condottiere , the poet, the grand schemer, the diplomat, like all those who were privileged by nature and who owed nothing to their forefathers, who were themselves the masterpieces of their own spirit, the artist could now unfold the generous forces or the perverted instincts of his conscience without any constraint. Whether it was Michelangelo or Aretino, the artist was greeted as the uomo singolare, uomo unico, the unique craftsman of a dazzling destiny and, in order to use the term that was at the very heart of the Renaissance, the virtuoso. We know that the virtù that Machiavelli glorifies in his most riveting passages has nothing to do with virtue. The virtuoso can be a great Christian, a very pure citizen, an excellent soul – such was Michelangelo and doubtlessly Brunelleschi, as well. But, in most cases, these ideal creatures, such as Cesare Borgia, Benvenuto Cellini, Pier Luigi Farnese, or Aretino, mocked the vulgar morality and the outdated traditions that governed the lives of the naive sort of people.
9. The Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels , c. 1480-1490.
Silverpoint and brown ink on parchment,
44.5 x 39 cm . Biblioteca Apostolica
Vaticana, Vatican City.
10. Angel, c. 1485-1490. Pen over chalk,
wash and white heightening, 25.3 x 16.1 cm .
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

At the same time one must keep in mind that society was amazingly indulgent, delighted by the audacity of the strong and thrilled by the malice of the treacherous. The Italian virtuoso was certainly a product of his age. The Italian Church, corrupted by earthly vanities, had too big a share of moral responsibility in this. The motherly tenderness it showed for its beloved artists encouraged them in their most liberal fantasies. So when Fra’ Filippo Lippi had the idea of abducting a young nun and making her his mistress, Pope Eugene IV offered him a marriage dispensation and forgot to release him from his vows. But Lippi rejected the dispensation “so that he could do as he pleased” and kept his head shaved and his status of monk until his death. A

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