Italia • 1445−1510

Biography and information

Sandro Botticelli (March 1, 1445, Florence, Italy, to May 17, 1510, Florence, Italy) was an Early Renaissance Italian painter who was widely respected during his lifetime, but all but forgotten after his death until being rediscovered for his importance in art history in the late 19th century.

Attributes of His Works: Botticelli, like most artists at the time, focused first on the human subject of his painting, using tempera grassa to get a more transparent flesh tone. He painstakingly layered colors to create delicate gradations and was a very talented draughtsman, his underdrawings showing how he would slightly change the placement of the hands and feet to make the image more graceful. He created his masterpieces during the heyday of the Renaissance, an era in which the attitude to ancient culture, religious subjects, and realism was being reinterpreted. In the paintings of Sandro Botticelli, the function of conveying the main intention of the artist is placed on a line. Linearity allows you to follow the contours of the objects depicted and emphasize their beauty and significance. The most famous works of Botticelli are incredibly flexible, decorative and dramatic. Magical paintings illustrating mythological, religious, and ancient themes are done with infinite grace and grace.

Famous Works: The Adoration of the Magi, The Annunciation, The Birth of Venus, Primavera, Madonna of the Magnificat etc.

The Early Life of the Artist

The real name of the artist was Alessandro Filipepi (his friends called him Sandro). He was the youngest of the four sons of Mariano Filipepi and his wife, Smeralda, and was born in Florence in 1445. By profession, Mariano was a tanner and lived with his family in the Santa Maria Novella section on Via Nuova, where he rented an apartment in a house owned by Rucellai. He had his own workshop near the Santa Trinita Bridge in Oltrarno; the business brought a very modest income, and old Filipepi dreamed of putting his sons to work so he could finally retire.

We can find the first mention of Alessandro, as well as of other Florentine artists, in the so-called "portate al Catasto," i.e., the register where applications were made for income for taxation which, according to the decree of the Republic of 1427, was a requirement for the head of each Florentine family. In 1458 Mariano Filipepi indicated that he had four sons, Giovanni, Antonio, Simone and thirteen-year-old Sandro, adding that Sandro "is learning to read; he is a sickly boy."

There is still doubt about where Sandro got the nickname Botticelli (little wine cask): it may have come from the nickname of his older brother, who, in order to help his aging father, appears to have taken over his upbringing; perhaps it came from the craft of his second brother, Antonio. In any case, jewelry art played an important role in the formation of the young Botticelli, because it was in direction that he was pushed by Antonio. Alessandro’s father sent him to be a jeweler, tired of his "extravagant mind"; he was gifted and capable of learning, but restless and still lacking a real career. perhaps Mariano wanted his youngest son to follow in the footsteps of Antonio, who worked as a jeweler at least since 1457, which would have begun a small but reliable family enterprise.

According to Vasari, there was such a close connection between jewelers and painters at that time that just entering the workshop meant gaining direct access to the crafts of others, and Sandro, who was already well-versed in drawing—the art necessary for an accurate and confident black work—soon became interested in painting and decided to devote himself to it, all the while remembering the most valuable lessons in jewelry art, in particular, the clarity in the outline of contour lines and the skillful use of gold, later often used by the artist as an admixture to paints or in its pure form for the background.

Around 1464, Sandro entered the workshop of Fra Filippo Lippi from the monastery of Carmine, the finest painter of the time, leaving in 1467 at the age of twenty-two.

Having given all of himself to painting, he became a follower of his teacher and imitated him in such a way that Fra Filippo loved; with his training, Botticelli was able to rise to such heights that no one could predict.
In 1467, Fra Filippo went to Spoleto, where he soon died, and Botticelli, still trying to quench his thirst for knowledge, began to look for another inspiration among the highest artistic achievements of the era. For a while he visited the workshop of Andrea Verrocchio, a multifaceted master, sculptor, painter, and jeweler who led a team of versatile, gifted young artists; at that time, there was an atmosphere of advanced creative search, and it was not by chance that Verrocchio taught the young Leonardo. From the associations in these circles, paintings such as Madonna of the Rose Garden (Florence, Uffizi) and Madonna with Child and Two Angels (1468–1469, Naples, Museo di Capodimonte) were born, where the optimal synthesis of lessons from Lippi and Verrocchio was found. Perhaps these works were the first fruits of Botticelli's independent activity.

The period from 1467 to 1470 was marked by the first-known altarpiece of Sandro, the so-called Sant'Ambrogio Altarpiece (now in Uffizi), found in an unmarked Florentine church. In reality it had a different purpose: it may have been painted for the main altar of the church of San Francesco in Montevarchi; this hypothesis, among other things, confirms the presence of St. Francis to the left of Our Lady. Alongside Mary Magdalene, John the Baptist, and St. Catherine of Alexandria, the kneeling Cosmas and Damian holy martyrs are considered patrons of the Medici house and often depicted in pictures ordered by the Medici themselves or someone from their entourage.

It can be concluded that by 1469 Botticelli was an independent artist, for in the registry of the same year Mariano stated that his son works at home. The activities of his four sons (the eldest of them, Giovanni, became a broker and acted as a financial intermediary in the government, and his nickname Botticella (barrel) passed to his more famous brother) brought significant income and position to the Filipepi family.

In 1470 Sandro opened his own studio and, somewhere between July 18 and August 8, 1470, he finished a work that brought him public recognition for the Commercial Court, one of the most important city institutions dealing with economic offenses.

Mature Work

Painted upon commission for the influential banker Gaspare di Zanobi del Lama, The Adoration of the Magi (1475–1478, Uffizi, Florence) captures the popular scene of the wise men visiting Jesus in the manger. The painting includes members of the Medici family who had already passed by the time it was started, as well as, allegedly, Gaspare himself and a self-portrait of Botticelli.

The Annunciation (1489, Uffizi, Florence) was another Biblical scene painted by Botticelli, this time for the chapel of the Florentine monastery Cestello. The angel, bearing news that Mary had been chosen to give birth to the Son of God, is carrying a white lily, a symbol of her purity.

Sometime in the 1480s, Botticelli was commissioned, probably by the Medici family, to paint The Birth of Venus (Uffizi, Florence), showing her floating naked on the sea in the sea shell with the gods of wind showering her with a rain of flowers and driving her to the shore. Showcasing how the artists placed style and imagery over anatomical correctness, it could be interpreted in a myriad of ways, containing mythological, Christian, and political imagery.

Primavera (Uffizi, Florence) is another mysterious mythologically themed work whose hidden messages and meanings have been debated for centuries. Neoplatonic love, the fertility of spring, and the triumph of a love of knowledge over lust are among the various themes attributed to this important and enigmatic Renaissance work.

The Magnificat, or Song of Mary, is one of the earliest Christian hymns, and Botticelli’s Madonna of the Magnificat (1481, Uffizi, Florence) shows the Virgin Mary, being crowned by two angels, writing it in a book, which also includes the Benedictus, or Song of Zechariah, on the following page.


Sandro Botticelli was buried in a family tomb in the Church of Ognissanti. In accordance with his will, he his final resting place was near the grave of Simonetta Vespucci, a woman who likely was a model for The Birth of Venus, among other works. The popular historical view is that he had been in love with her, though it was unrequited.