why is sandro botticelli important
Detail of Mercury
Botticelli, “Primavera,” ca. c. 1477–1482 (Photo: Google Arts & Culture via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)
In one of his earliest works, “La Primavera,” Botticelli created a mythological scene on a panel over 6 feet high. For this work and the “Birth of Venus,” Botticelli is credited as one of the first painters to make mythological paintings on a large scale since the Classical era. Most artwork of this size was previously completed in the 15th century for private residences by Flemish and French tapestry makers at a higher cost.
Both “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus” are secular works commissioned for private patrons. Botticelli’s compositions represent the natural beauty of the physical environment as well as the ethereal quality of Venus. Here Botticelli shows the trend towards NeoPlatonism, a belief system described as mystical. Some Greeks studied under this school of thought until Emperor Justinian closed the Platonic Academy in 529 CE. NeoPlatonism, an attempt to blend Christian doctrine with Platonic philosophy, was important to Renaissance Humanists.
Venezia, Mike. Botticelli. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1991.
Lightbown, R. W. Sandro Botticelli. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
The Virgin and Child with Angels is one of Botticelli’s earliest works and clearly shows the influence of his master Fillipo Lippi.
Details of Sandro’s childhood and early life remain sparse. He grew up in Florence with his three brothers in the shadow of the monastery of Santa Maria Novella.
Intriguingly, the painting also contains a self-portrait of Botticelli – the only one known to be in existence. The artist stands on the right edge of the painting and looks directly out at the viewer. Although he was probably only around 30 years old when this was painted, Botticelli depicts himself as confident and masterful, and his confidence is justified by the accomplished style of this work, which compares to some of his more mature masterpieces.
Botticelli was probably the first artist to depict the Adoration of the Magi with the holy family at the center, set back “deep” into the painting, with the other characters arranged symmetrically on either side. Previously, the scene had always been depicted as a linear narrative flowing across the space of the canvas, as in the Gothic painting by Gentile da Fabbriano (1420) or Benozzo Gozzoli’s famous fresco in the Palazzo Medici (1459).