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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 9781781606209
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 33 Mo

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Victoria Charles

Translation: Marlena Metcalf
© Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA
© Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
Image-Bar www.image-bar.com
All rights reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case we would appreciate notification.
ISBN: 978-1-78160-620-9
I. Origin, teachers, and early works
II. Botticelli’s naturalistic early works
III. Mythological and allegorical portrayals
IV. The fresco painter
V. The painter of of altarpieces
VI. His art under the influence of Savonarola
VII. His drawings on the Divine Comedy
VIII. Botticelli: the man and the artist
List of Illustrations
Although Botticelli had a respected position among the Italian artists of his time, it was by no means outstanding. Some contemporaries born during his lifetime give quite detailed reports on his life and work, but without making him stand out especially among his fellow artists. The same applies to the literary sources of that time, as they have been mainly preserved to us in Albertini’s Memoriale or in the works of Francesco Billi or Gaddi’s Anonymus . Later on, Botticelli was increasingly forgotten. Even as the interest in older Italian art gradually grew again during the first decades of the nineteenth century, it was at first mainly in Perugino’s strict depictions of rapturous devotion and not Botticelli’s work. Even such an enthusiastic admirer of Renaissance art as Jacob Burckhardt still does not put Botticelli on the same level as his Florentine contemporaries in his Cicerone . His characterisation more often picks out one or the other of the artist’s weaknesses than his good qualities. Thus he writes:
“Compared to what he wanted, Botticelli is in nothing thoroughly trained. He loved to express life and emotion in stormy movements and often painted in a clumsy haste. He strived for an ideal of beauty and came to a standstill at a type of head, which repeated itself again and again and was recognisable from far away, portrayed extremely charmingly here and there, but often enough in a rough and lifeless manner.”
In his History of Italian Painting, Cavalcaselle also assesses the artist in a condescending manner, placing him behind a contemporary such as Domenico Ghirlandajo, and the harsh criticism of Morelli was even less likely to do Botticelli justice.
The first to pay Botticelli increased attention were the English painters. Since the Pre-Raphaelites – and among them mainly Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Burne Jones – showed enthusiasm for Botticelli’s creations, the appreciation for him has increased remarkably, and a number of popular monographs on him have been published, as well as some fundamental scientific works in various languages. Today his paintings belong to the most sought after works in the art market.
Not that much is known about Botticelli’s life. Although Vasari, in one of the most detailed sources, provides some anecdotes from the life of the artist, what he reports, according to other records since made known, has proven to be unreliable at times. This is why, his work should not be the basis for the criticism of Botticelli’s works, their interpretation and thus for any conclusions drawn on his personality. However, meticulous criticism of his art is often made rather difficult.
The reason for this being that due to their similarity, it is difficult to distinguish between which paintings are the work of his pupils and imitators and those which Botticelli himself painted. Also, because these works are often very imaginative creations, they are difficult to interpret. Thus, a lack of reliable information frequently leads to misinterpretations. However, it goes without saying that this artist should be analysed with care. In individual inscriptions and references in his pictures, especially in his drawings for Dante’s Divine Comedy, Botticelli himself shows us the way.

1. Portrait of a Young Man , c.1469. Tempera on panel, 51 x 33.7 cm. Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence.

2. The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist , 1470. Tempera on wood, 91 x 67 cm. Musée du Louvre.

3. Madonna and Child with Two Angels , c.1470. Tempera on wood, 100 x 71 cm. National Capodimonte Museum and Gallery, Naples.
I. Origin, teachers, and early works
Botticelli’s proven period of work spans the last three decades of the fifteenth century. His earliest known piece of work was created in 1470; the last is dated to the year 1500. But some paintings may possibly have been created several years before or after this period, but it is unlikely that he would not have created anything between 1500 and his death in the year 1510.
Botticelli developed as an artist when masters such as Uccello, Castagno and Donatello were still active. He was, after all, not only the pupil of one of the most famous of that time, Fra Filippo Lippi, but he was also friends with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Yet none of these artists really influenced him. His works have neither the simple greatness of Masaccio or Andrea del Castagno nor the liberal mastery which the early works of the artists of the High Renaissance already showed. Botticelli’s works are arguably the purest and most unique artistic expression of this culture; he is its genuine child, as it culminates in Lorenzo il Magnifico and his circle.
The generation of artists before Botticelli easily easily and, apparently, effortlessly reaped what a brilliant generation before them had laboriously conceived and struggled to achieve. Compared to those, the art of the younger Florentine generation seems like a pale reflection of the older masters’ accomplishments. This younger generation, of whom Fra Filippo was the best teacher and guide with his sense of realism and compositional talent, are no longer pioneers as their predecessors and masters were. On the contrary, they adopted their masters’ achievements and took them to another level, thus preparing for a revival in art. The brothers Antonio and Piero Pollajuolo as well as Verrocchio, all three masters of bronze sculpture, give the figures in their paintings full curves and artistic effect. Through their peculiar varnish colours, they achieve a luminous colouring, and they show their portrayals in the foreground of the attractive landscape of their native Arno Valley. Benozzo Gozzoli and Domenico Ghirlandajo use Florence and its rich surroundings as their backdrop.
They portray their saints with an innocent love of life and with great delight in making up stories in Florentine life, and enliven them with the figures of the founders and their clan. As an inherited trait from his Umbrian mountain home, Pietro Perugino contributes a moving atmosphere to his pictures, which is even increased by a solemn kind of architecture, strictly condensing the composition. Apart from these artists, their contemporary and colleague Botticelli should be mentioned. This is absolutely justified, even if his oeuvre does not equal the vivid effects and colourful splendour of some, nor the cheerful presentation of Florentine life, nor the description of sunny Tuscan landscapes, nor the depth of devout worship of others. But his abundant imagination, his taste and the sensation of atmosphere which his works possess, unlike those of any other artist, gave Florentine art a completely new appeal.

4. Madonna of the Rose Garden , c.1470. Tempera on wood, 124 x 65 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

5. Madonna with Child in Glory (Madonna in Glory with Seraphim), 1469-1470. Tempera on panel, 120 x 65 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

6. Madonna and Child with Five Angels (Madonna of the Magnificat) , 1480-1481. Tempera on panel, diameter 118 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

7. Madonna and Child with Eight Angels , c. 1478. Tempera on panel, diameter 135 cm. Staatlich Museen, Berlin.

8. Madonna and Child with Six Saints (Sant’Ambrogio Altarpiece) , c.1470. Tempera on panel, 170 x 194 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Alessandro di Maryno dei Filipepi (Botticelli) was born in a house close to the Ognissanti church, though his date of birth is only approximate. As the Florentine year of that time was counted from 25 March onwards, he was born between 25 March 1444 and the same day in 1445; for his father states in the Denunzia di beni from the year 1457 that, apart from two daughters, he had four sons, of which the youngest, Alessandro, was thirteen years old.
It is also proven that the b

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