Art e Dossier


Art History

Botticelli: biography

According to some sources Alessandro Filipepi inherited his nickname from his brother, Giovanni who was fat. “Botticella” is an Italian pun meaning “little barrel”. Vasari, however, maintains that as a young man the painter had worked with a goldsmith friend of his father’s whose name was, indeed, “Botticello”; others affirm that it came from his brother Antonio who was a gold and silversmith a “battigello” in the dialect of the era. Son of a tailor, Botticelli began as an apprentice to a goldsmith, and then, in 1464 entered the prestigious workshop of Filippo Lippi. In 1467 he went to study with Verrocchio. From the first he learned about delicate colors and soft lines, while the second gave him his knowledge of plasticity of figures. Sometime around 1470 he struck out on his own, and in 1472 joined the Compagnia San Luca. During this period he began to receive important commissions and acquired fundamental experiences in the field of historic-religious paintings, (diptych of Judith and Holofernes, 1469-1470 circa) and portraits (Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder, 1474-1475). In 1475 he began to work for the Medici, frequenting their court and the most illustrious figures of the era. He created paintings of extraordinary formal balance (The Adoration of the Magi, 1475, circa; The Madonna of The Book, 1480, circa; Madonna of the Magnificat, 1480-1481, circa; The Allegory of Spring, 1482 circa; The Birth of Venus, 1484-1486 circa) and carried the linear style of his Florentine masters to the greatest splendor. In 1481 he was summoned to Rome by pope Sixtus IV who commissioned three frescoes for the Sistine Chapel. He returned to Florence the following year. His fame was by now consolidated and in 1491 Lorenzo de’Medici asked him, along with Lorenzo di Credi, Ghirlandaio, Perugino and Alessio Baldovinetti, to review the plans submitted in the competition for the new façade of the Florence cathedral. The political crisis in Florence and the subsequent banishment of the Medici along with Savonarola’s preaching led to a progressive breakdown of the humanistic certainties, and Botticelli’s painting showed increasingly marked tension. His works from the last decade of the century acquired dramatic tones (Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, 1492-1495 circa) with strong emotional involvement. Upon the death of Savonarola the artist, who had embraced the monk’s moralistic ideas, sought refuge in mysticism and produced paintings characterized by increasingly complex religious symbolism (Mystic Crucifixion, Cambridge, 1497; Mystic Nativity, London 1501, circa). Botticelli’s artistic development that was so closely linked to the Florentine religious and political experience marked the dramatic transition from the golden period of humanism to the restlessness of the new century.

The works