He was an ingenious poet and a true romantic of the Renaissance, the singer of harmony, faithful knight of a beautiful lady - the beauty itself, which briefly visited the frail world in the guise of earthly women. All these words describe the artist Botticelli. Have a look at some everyday stories and details of the Florentine genius life to animate the current trite image of him.

There are not so many pieces of evidence about the ordinary cares of Botticelli as a person who lived five centuries ago.
One of the main books is The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574). It contains several free, for the most part strict facts, but this work is valuable for us, as the book was written by the world's first art historian and the artist, who knew many of the masters personally. The exact information came from the records kept in Florence in the 15th century. In particular, the inventory, where the diligent citizens were obliged to enter their information required for tax calculation (today we would take the necessary information in all ages - the statement of family composition). There was also a book called Red Book of the society of St. Luke, who united painters, as well as the Book of the Dead, the book of shop and city, which contained such kind of data. There is a number of documentaries evidence about the life of Florence, which was published by the scholar and historian Gaetano Milanesi (1813-1895). Some facts were found in the notes of Sandro's brother, some information about Botticelli was left by Leonardo da Vinci, who had the same mentor as the author of The Birth of Venus.
The researchers of the Renaissance also cited the old works down to History of Florence by Niccolo Machiavelli, they obtained the information from the works of writers of those times and analysed the paintings of Sandro Botticelli himself.


Sandro Botticelli. The adoration of the Magi
The adoration of the Magi
Sandro Botticelli
1475, 111×134 cm
The representatives of the Medici clan are depicted in the painting The Adoration of the Magi (1475). As it is believed, Sandro Botticelli depicted himself furthest to the right.

A whimsical mind


This phrase belongs to Giorgio Vasari. We are talking about the childhood of Alessandro Filipepi, nicknamed later Sandro Botticelli, which apparently came from his elder overweight brother (from Italian botticelli "little barrel"). The senior Filipepi, a leather master, probably wanted a younger sibling to follow in his footsteps or to involve into the bargain. "...And although the boy learned everything he wanted to quite easily, he was nevertheless restless; he was never satisfied in school with reading, writing, arithmetic. Disturbed by the boy's whimsical mind, his father in desperation made him learn goldsmith... In that period, very close relations and almost a constant intercourse existed between goldsmiths and painters, and because of this, Sandro, who was a clever boy and had taken a fancy to painting, turned completely to the art of design and decided to devote himself to it."


Sandro Botticelli. Madonna of the Magnificat (detail)
Madonna of the Magnificat (detail)
Sandro Botticelli
1485

So we see the restless boy, who could diligently do favourite and interesting work. It is good that his father acted as if following the books of modern psychologists: he did not compel his son to classes he struggled with and he was insincere when wrote to the inventory about the teenager who "is learning to read and have a poor health". And instead of school, as we would say today, "business school", he sent his son to the so-called Latin school - an analogue of the notorious "three-class parochial school". And then he paid tuition to a jeweller for years.



Filippino Lippi. The fragment of a fresco Disputation with Simon Magus and Crucifixion of Peter (1481, Florence), probably there was a portrait of Sandro Botticelli on it. The son of the Botticelli's teacher, Fra Filippo Lippi, after the death of his father, studied in the workshop of his former student.



The offspring more succeeded in drawing sketches, his line was good, but he struggled with practical skills in jewellery. Sandro was taught by the eminent painter Fra Filippo Lippi, despite his dubious reputation (he escaped with a nun!). Later the father equipped Botticelli's workshop at his own home. And in 33 years, he wrote in the inventory: "Sandro di Mariano ... artist and he works at home, when he wants to." Well, Sandro wished to draw Madonna. Sandro did not want to study×A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? read more
engraving and devote himself to the frescoes. Sandro read the writings of art theorists and drew on his own. Sandro did whatever he wanted.



Just for fun


"Sandro was a very pleasant man and loved to joke with students and friends." Confirming the words of Vasari, it must be noted that in our days the artist might become famous as a successful organizer of flashmobs and pranks for TV shows like Candid camera. And he spared no effort building complex combinations.
Imagine the scenario: the first is to talk the buyer of the student's work, modelled on the teacher's tondo of the "Madonna and Angels", into saying that he "would not notice" changes in the finished painting, when he comes to the workshop to accept the job. The second is to inform about upcoming profit in 6 florins for author's work. The third - to cut from the paper the counterparts of red hats of Florentine Sirs, and, hang the tondo high on the wall – saying that it will be easier for the buyer to look at the work - secretly attach hats over the heads of angels. The fourth: to instruct the students not to giggle during the culmination point. The fifth: during the final viewing in the presence of a warned buyer not to notice the horror on the face of the student artist: Madonna was not surrounded by angels, but Florentine signori in hoods. Finally, the sixth: while an apprentice along with happy buyer, who did not notice anything, go for money, they return everything as it was. And when the young man returns, he pretended that the mind of the student was affected by money: what caps?! That's hilarious!



Sandro Botticelli. Madonna with singing angels,
Madonna with singing angels,
Sandro Botticelli
1477, 135 cm

Botticelli could also masterfully annoy the annoying. The Neighbour, clothier, who settled nearby was driving him nuts: eight machines roared so that the house was shaking! Sandro could not work or even exist in his own house. And the neighbour responded to complaints and requests with anger. He said: "It's my own house and I do everything I want". Well, the artist found a decent answer. Once the neighbour woke up in the morning, looked in the yard and was taken aback: on the wall of Sandro's house, which is higher in comparison with the neighbour's wall, hang a stone the size of a huge cart. The balance was not stable, if the wall trembled, the stone would fall right on the clothier's house. And Botticelli just chuckled, returning the scared neighbour his own words: “It is my house and I can do whatever I want”.
So, the craftsman had to seek a compromise solution.

These stories were mentioned in Vasari's free Biographies… I wonder what lies behind the notarial deed of 18 February 1498. According to the document, Botticelli and his neighbour- the hosier Filippo di Domenico del Cavaliere signed a contract agreeing not to annoy each other. Seriously!




The line is everything, but the landscape and Leonardo is Nothing!


After Sandro had left his Florentine teacher Fra Filippo Lippi, he attended the studio of a renowned master Andrea del Verocchio for two years. This sculptor, painter and goldsmith at that time was also a mentor of Leonardo da Vinci. The teenager was seven years younger than Sandro Botticelli and listened to the opinion of the 20-year-old artist. And he once declared: the landscape is nothing more than a background. Is there a need to take great pains? Take a sponge, soak it with different colours and throw it against the wall - get a spot which will be enough for the landscape. Was Botticelli serious when he painted the Adoration of the Magi for seven times, and, as the botanists admit, depicted 170 kinds of flowers in the picture Spring? Anyway, the method with the sponge in different variations would be used in the twentieth century by another great joker - Salvador Dali. Leonardo seriously pondered over the words of Botticelli, and many years later, after Botticelli’s death, he wrote down in his notes: "Even if the spots will help your imagination, they will not teach you how to complete this or that detail"




Sandro Botticelli. Spring
Spring
Sandro Botticelli
1485, 314×203 cm

Does the name matter?


Botticelli, contrary to the possible opinion of the physiognomist, studying the alleged self-portrait of the artist, hardly was vain. Yes, the curve of the lips was haughty, he looked down, and wore the cloak in which the artist appeared in the painting the Adoration of the Magi, he differed from the other subjects by the shade of the clothes: the outfit looked almost like the gold.


Sandro Botticelli. A self-portrait. The altar fragment of the composition "Adoration of the Magi"
A self-portrait. The altar fragment of the composition "Adoration of the Magi"
Sandro Botticelli
1475
At the same time, the eminent and popular master did not sign his paintings. And it is not about the irrelevance of these religious stories:
let's remember about the growing significance of an individual in the time of the Renaissance, and that numerous Italian artists claimed the authorship of his works. They even boasted. A contemporary of Botticelli and Raphael's teacher Pietro Perugino signed one of his ordinary frescoes this way: "Petrus Perusinus, an excellent painter, if art had died, then this painting revived him".

And a rare, almost unique example of Botticelli's signature on the work the Mystical Nativity is not a designation of the authorship. It's almost a political statement, a kind of hard-won "blog post", placed at the top of the picture: "I Sandro painted this picture at the end of the year 1500 in the troubles of Italy in the half time after the time according to the eleventh chapter of St. John in the second woe of the Apocalypse in the loosing of the devil for three and a half years. Then he will be chained in the 12th chapter and we shall see him trodden down as in this picture."(translated from Greek).


Sandro Botticelli. Mystical Christmas
Mystical Christmas
Sandro Botticelli
XVI century, 108.6×74.9 cm

Here is another argument about the lack of Botticelli "star sickness": he took almost any job, regardless of the unspoken canons, which were common among painters. To paint the chest, even for the famous customer. This is a job for apprentices! However, the 38-year old master together with students worked on the chest paintings for the farming of noble bridal Giannozzo Pucci and Lucrezia Bini. I wonder if the young couple chose the illustrations based on the novel of Boccaccio Nastagio degli Onesti. The essence of this story is that even the most unapproachable beauties must give way to the young man who fell in love with them under the threat of posthumous transformation into the ghost which would straggle.

Sandro Botticelli. A scene from "novels of Nastagio degli Onesti" I
A scene from "novels of Nastagio degli Onesti" I
Sandro Botticelli
1483, 83×138 cm

You need to believe


The artist did not seek for playing a notable role in boiling public passions, but for personal clothe in the art form. He was a sort of a passionate man. The name Botticelli was firstly associated with the court of the rulers of Florence, the house of Medici, and with the beautiful Simonetta Vespucci. And later with the followers of Savonarola. The artist always needed support, the basis of his own world. He wanted to idealize the environment, to be involved in in the environment of adepts of all kinds, it made no difference whether it was a secular group of philosophy lovers, the circle of the first beauty of the city admirers, or a clan of religious followers.
The young Sandro loved the courtly bustle and the lifestyle of the top persons of Florence - Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici. He even learned Greek to be in their enlightened society - this is evidenced by the inscription on his picture, done in Greek. There was no lack of teachers, as after the fall of Constantinople, there were many Greek refugees in Florence. The young master also joined the Neoplatonists: the Medici financed the so-called Platonic Academy, in the framework of its meetings philosophers, poets, artists, noble and enlightened debated about the synthesis of ancient wisdom and Christian foundations.


Sandro Botticelli. Spring (Primavera). Detail: Flora
Spring (Primavera). Detail: Flora
Sandro Botticelli
1482

As the art critic and art historian Paola Volkova noted, Sandro was not just an artist during the Medici's reign. He was also a master decorator: Botticelli plunged into the organization of celebrations, events, which excited the whole of Florence. And this artist, as it seemed, did not need a wife. He already had an ideal object for worship. All admired Simonetta, the young wife of Vespucci, the brother of the traveller America was named after. Botticelli was a prisoner of her shining image, but not of her. And it's not just about that fact, that Simonetta was considered to be a lover of a brilliant Giuliano de Medici. How it would have turned out if this charming beauty have been free, would Botticelli have chased a real woman? After the death of 23-year-old Simonetti from tuberculosis, the artist did not find anybody. There were models in his workshop, but unlike Rafael, Botticelli did not make them his lovers. Was he afraid of carnal relations, or was he a fervent Catholic, who was loyal only to the Virgin Mary, did he have an attraction to the weaker sex at all? There is only one, not quite obvious answer: the image of facial features of Simonetti in many works by Sandro Botticelli.






In his old age the artist was accused of sodomy, but this vague episode the researchers attributed to the machinations of the opponents of Savonarola. The artist believed in the ideas of this arbiter of faith, who denied worldly goods and fought with the frills: the Medici were expelled, whom to follow Botticelli? According to a legend, the artist even threw his paintings into the fire, when the town set the luxury items on fire. It was unlikely so, but he and his brother were among the piagnones, followers of the Dominican order were called in such a way. And after the execution of Savonarola Botticelli, the artist collapsed and his pictures are the evidence of this.
Sandro Botticelli. Slander
Slander
Sandro Botticelli
1497, 62×91 cm

Rich? Poor?


About his financial independence Sandro could say using the words of the character of Max Fry's book: "Ah, they always go away somewhere, these little little rounds, I do not capish where!" The feast of the Spirit in the paintings of Sandro Botticelli was well paid, and the master never refused to paint Madonna. By the time of opening his own workshop in 1470, he reached the golden ratio in the form of the famous florins minted in Florence from yellow precious metal, which would be quoted as dollars and euros in Europe today. He worked with apprentices, it is the evidence that he had the clientele.
The earned money was spent easily, how else it could be in a high society, where the spirit of Cosimo di Medici prevailed with his famous statement: "The ability to spend money is even more important than the ability to earn them..."? Spending on the secular way of life was great, but self-indulgence paid off. He had commissions not only from the rich citizens but also from the members of the Medici clan and from the top of the Florentine nobility. Even from the Pope. Vasari wrote: "At that time, this work brought Sandro so much renown both in Florence and elsewhere that after completing the construction of the chapel in his palace in Rome and wishing to paint it, Pope Sixtus IV summoned Sandro to head the project". On account of the Botticelli there are three frescoes of the Sistine chapel and a generous reward: "Sandro received from the pope a good sum of money, all of which he immediately squandered and wasted during his stay in Rome, in living his customarily haphazard existence".

Soon in Florence: "Here he is as a man full of surprises, commented on the part of the Divine Comedy, illustrated and published Hell, on which he spent quite a lot of time. He didn't earn anything, and that was the cause of endless troubles in his life... Still, he was known to love all who connected with art, everybody he knew and cared about them; but the inability to arrange his affairs and carelessness killed him."
Meanwhile, the prestigious commission of the Roman Pontiff allowed Botticelli to increase the prices of his work.
Sandro Botticelli. The punishment of the rebellious Levites
The punishment of the rebellious Levites
Sandro Botticelli
1482, 348×570 cm

According to the Florentine documents, for the Annunciation (1490) executed for the chapel of the Guardi in the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena (now the painting is in the Uffizi gallery), Sandro Botticelli was paid 30 ducats, Venetian analogues of gold florins. It was good money: for 3 Florina it was possible to buy a pig, order the artist a small work on a religious subject (plus the cost of gold paint), and six acres of the urban area costed 24-30 florins. As for the cost of work, Botticelli spare no effort and expense on gold and paints made of lapis lazuli, drawing his Madonnas. A true artist!


Sandro Botticelli. The Annunciation
The Annunciation
Sandro Botticelli
1490, 156×150 cm

The rise and fall of Florence, like a mirror, reflected on the fate of Botticelli, and the ascetic monk Savonarola did not make him rich. According to Vasari, "he was apparently a follower of Savonarola’s faction, which led him to abandon painting; unable to make enough to live on, he tells into the direst of straits. He obstinately remained a member of this faction and became a piagnone (as they were called in those days), which kept him away from his work." Thus, he eventually found himself both old and poor, and if Lorenzo de Medici (for whom Sandro, among many other projects, had done a great deal of work at the Villa dello Spodaletto in Volterra), along with his friends and other prominent men who were admirers of his talent, had not assisted him financially during the rest of his life, he would almost have starved to death".

However, Savonarola appeared in Florence in 1490, and in 1494 the 49-year-old Sandro together with his brother Simone was the owner of the estate with a large villa, bought for 156 florins (a large florin, which was even more significant than the gold Florentine unit). After four years, the income from it, according to the record in the inventory, was 157 large florins. So the beggar and the lonely finale of Botticelli's life, even with the absence of large, profitable orders, is more likely an exaggeration. Because the house where the nephews with their families lived was his house as well.
Sandro Botticelli. Scenes from the life of Saint zenobius IV
Scenes from the life of Saint zenobius IV
Sandro Botticelli
1505, 66×182 cm

Grow where you're planted


While other masters travelled throughout Europe in search of wealthy patrons and customers, followed the geography of orders for paintings and frescoes for palaces and cathedrals, a homebody Botticelli left Florence only twice in his life. The first time was due to the study×A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? read more
with Filippo Lippi, whose workshop, because of a large commission - frescoes for the cathedral, - was in Prato, which is 20 km from Florence.

Then the teacher, alarmed by the political situation after the death of Cosimo de 'Medici, decided to leave Florence and invited his best and beloved student to Spoleto. But Sandro didn't go. Of course, he was seduced by the outlined prospects for the court of Medici's successors, but the unwillingness to sharply change habitual way played the role too.

The second good reason to leave the city happened in 1481: it was a sort of business trip, a trip to Rome to create the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. Having stayed there a little over a year, Sandro Botticelli lived in his native Florence for the rest of his natural life, which ended in 1510. He was buried in the Ognissanti Church (chiesa di Ognissanti), located near the house where Sandro lived as a child. In the same church, in the Vespucci family chapel, Simonetta is at rest.

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Author: Olga Potekhina.


As the art critic, the historian of culture Paola Volkova has noted, Sandro was not just an artist during the Medici's reign. He was also a master decorator: Botticelli plunged into the organization of celebrations, events, which excited the whole of Florence. And this artist, as it seemed, did not need a wife. He already had an ideal object for worship. All admired Simonetta, the young wife of Vespucci, the brother of the traveller, America was named after. Botticelli was a prisoner of her shining image, but not of her. And it's not just about that fact, that Simonetta was considered to be a lover of a brilliant Giuliano de Medici. How it would have turned out if this charming beauty have been free, would Botticelli have chased a real woman? After the death of 23-year-old Simonetti from tuberculosis, the artist did not find anybody. There were models in his workshop, but unlike Rafael, Botticelli did not make them his lovers. Was he afraid of carnal relations, or was he a fervent Catholic, who was loyal only to the Virgin Mary, did he have an attraction to the weaker sex at all? There is only one, not quite obvious answer: the image of facial features of Simonetti in many works by Sandro Botticelli.