Classical myth and Biblical allusions collide to form glorious visuals in Botticelli's works
DIVINE EXPRESSION The Birth of Venus is Botticelli's most famous painting
Alessandro Di Mariano Filipepi was born in Florence in 1445. He was called Sandro and the name Botticelli is derived from the nickname El Botticello (meaning the little barrel) given to his elder brother who was a pawnbroker.
He was first apprenticed to a goldsmith, he then expressed his desire to study art and his father sent to him to apprentice with Fra Filippo Lippi. The influence of Lippi in the three dimensional forms, tender expressiveness and decorative details derived from the late gothic style is evident in Botticelli's work. He was also influenced by the sculptures of the Pollaiuolo Brothers, who trained not only as sculptors but also as painters, goldsmiths, engravers, and embroidery designers.
Botticelli's talent was recognised by the powerful Medici family and he worked all his life in Florence except for a stay in Rome between 1481 and 1482 when he painted wall frescoes at the Sistine Chapel at the behest of Pope Sixtus IV.
Botticelli's most famous paintings include The Birth of Venus, La Primavera and The Adoration of the Magi.
Classical myth and Biblical allusions collide to form glorious visuals. Venus is interchangeable with the Virgin. For the modern viewer, these paintings epitomise the spirit of the Renaissance.
Botticelli's style was marked with sharp contours, slender forms and a rippling sensuous line.
While he was not a slave to anatomical details (his Venus has an unnaturally long neck and steeply sloping shoulders) all is forgotten in the graceful outlines and melodic composition.
With the high Renaissance, Botticelli fell into obscurity. Later, it took the Pre-Raphaelites in 19th Century to rediscover this Florentine master whose work artist biographer Giorgio Vasari describes as a "marvellous work in colour, design and composition and the wonder and admiration of all artists".
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