Sandro Botticelli

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Botticelli, Sandro

(sän`drō bôt'tĭchĕl`lē), c.1444–1510, Florentine painter of the Renaissance, whose real name was Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi (älĕssän`drō dē märēä`nō fēlēpā`pē). He was apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi, whose delicate coloring can be seen in such early works as the Adoration of the Kings (National Gall., London) and Chigi Madonna (Gardner Mus., Boston). Elements of the more vigorous style of Pollaiuolo and Verrocchio soon entered his paintings, e.g., Fortitude (Uffizi), St. Augustine (Ognissanti), and Portrait of a Young Man (Uffizi). He was one of the greatest colorists in Florence and a master of the rhythmic line. He became a favorite painter of the Medici, whose portraits he included, in addition to a self-portrait, among the splendid figures in the Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi). In 1481 Pope Sixtus IV asked him to help decorate the Sistine Chapel. After painting three biblical frescoes he returned to Florence, where he reached the height of his popularity. Through the Medici he came into contact with the Neoplatonic circle and was influenced by the ideas of Ficino and Poliziano. His mythological allegories, Spring, Birth of Venus, Mars and Venus, and Pallas Subduing a Centaur, allude, in general, to the triumph of love and reason over brutal instinct. Probably in the 1490s he drew the visionary illustrations for the Divine Comedy. He painted a set of frescoes for the Villa Tornabuoni (Louvre) and created a series of radiant Madonnas, including the Magnificat and the Madonna of the Pomegranate (Uffizi). From Alberti's description, he re-created the famous lost work of antiquity, The Calumny of Apelles. Religious passion is evident in the Nativity (National Gall., London), Last Communion of St. Jerome (Metropolitan Mus.) and Pietà (Fogg Mus., Cambridge). In the 19th cent. the Pre-Raphaelites rediscovered him. Supported by Ruskin, they admired what they considered to be the extreme refinement and poignancy of his conceptions.


See studies by H. P. Horne (1908), L. Venturi (1949, repr. 1961), G. C. Argan (tr. by J. Emmons, 1957), and L. D. and H. Ettlinger (1985).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Botticelli, Sandro


(real name, Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi). Born in 1445, in Florence; buried there May 17, 1510. Italian painter of the Florentine school.

Botticelli studied with Filippo Lippi circa 1465–66. In 1481 and 1482 he worked in Rome. At the beginning of his career Botticelli was a typical representative of the early Florentine Renaissance. His early works were marked by clear-cut spatial arrangements, precise modeling based on light and shadow, detailed narration, and attention to the details of everyday life (Adoration of the Magi, circa 1470, National Gallery, London, and circa 1476–77, Uffizi Gallery, Florence; and the diptych Story of Judith, 1470–1472, Uffizi). A number of Botticelli’s early works (the Fortitude Allegory, 1470, Uffizi; and St. Sebastian, 1474, Picture Gallery, Berlin-Dahlem) show the influence of A. Verrocchio and A. Pollaiuolo. At the end of the 1470’s, Botticelli became close to the Medici family and the humanists grouped around them. In the atmosphere of the Medici court his art became more refined and aristocratic, and the characteristics of the artist’s brilliantly individual manner were intensified. In Botticelli’s pictures on ancient and allegorical themes (Spring, circa 1477–78; the Birth of Venus, circa 1483–84; and Pallas and the Centaur, circa 1485, all in the Uffizi), the poetically generalized, sensual pagan images are imbued with an exalted spirituality. The animated quality of the landscape, the fragile beauty of the figures, the musicality of the light, palpitating lines, and the transparency of the cool, refined colors that appear to be woven of reflections create an atmosphere of dreams and luminous lyrical sadness. The composition, with its classical harmony, is enriched by an intricate play of rhythmic lines (Madonna of the Magnificat, circa 1482–83, and the Madonna of the Pomegranate, 1487, both in the Uffizi). A number of Botticelli’s paintings of the 1480’s show traces of unrest and vague anxiety. The 82 frescoes he painted in 1481 and 1482 in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican (Scenes from the Life of Moses, Destruction of the Sons of Korah, and others) combine the majestic harmony of the landscape and the monuments of antique architecture with the inner tension of the subject and a multiplicity of portraits. Botticelli’s portraits are distinguished by the recreation of character and fine, barely perceptible nuances of man’s inner being (for example, the portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici, 1470, the Carrara Academy, Bergamo). In the 1490’s, during the period of social unrest that had shaken Florence and of Savonarola’s mystical preaching, Botticelli’s art showed moral and dramatic qualities and religious exultation (Calumny, after 1495, Uffizi; Pietà, after 1490, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan; and Scenes from the Life of St. Zenobius, circa 1505, Picture Gallery, Dresden, the National Gallery, London, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York). The sharp contrasts of bright colors, the inner tension of the drawing, and the dynamics and expressiveness of images attest to a crisis of the artist’s world view. Botticelli’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy (1492–97, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, and the Vatican Library), despite their keen emotional expressiveness, retain an effect of lightness and clearness. Botticelli’s works, which absorbed the best traditions of Italian 15th-century art, reflected the profound contradictions in the spiritual life of Florence at the end of the century.


Grashchenkov, V. Sandro Bottichelli. Moscow, 1960.
Bottichelli: Sbornik materialov o tvorchestve. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from French, English, and Italian.)
Smirnova, I. Sandro Bottichelli. Moscow, 1967.
Home, H. Alessandro Filipepi . . . Called Sandro Botticelli. London, 1908.
Mesnil, J. Botticelli. Paris, 1938.
Venturi, L. Botticelli, 2nd ed. Paris, 1949.
L’opera completa del Botticelli, 2nd ed. Milan, [1968].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.