Today, we immerse ourselves in a trip to the past, specifically, to the Renaissance, to talk about one of the most representative figures of this period. Sandro Botticelli came to the world at a very special moment in history. He was born in Florence, a city that, then, was halfway between Aristotelian ideas and academics inspired by the classics, especially Plato.
Familiarly known as Filipepi, Sandro Botticelli has long been recognized for his works, considered some of the greatest creations of this very fruitful and brilliant artistic period.
The story of his life is a game of chiaroscuro in which the prestige and recognized talent in his younger age were deeply tarnished in his last period. His relationship with another of the key figures of the time, Giacomo Savonarola, seems to have cost him dearly.
Botticelli’s works are still controversial today in their interpretation. The most classical theories advocate the purely religious interpretation of his paintings. However, some currents have proposed an interpretation associated with the numerous references to symbols of ancient initiatory mysteries in his paintings.
Mysteries that would have been recovered by the Renaissance Neoplatonists. A knowledge that the religious struggles of the reform, the counter-reformation and their witch hunt would have ended up burying.
His early life
Alessandro de Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, was born in Florence, a city that he would leave only once in his life. Florence is an integral part of the life and work of this magnificent artist. The city of Florence saw him be born, grow up and die… he was an accomplice and refuge for his extraordinary talent, his lovers, his secrets and his most mystical longings.
We hardly have any data on his earliest life, but we know that Sandro Botticelli already appeared in the world of canvases at the age of 14. Thanks to his family’s friendship with the Vespucci , Sandro became an outstanding disciple of the great Filippo Lippi. Lippi exerted an enormous influence on all of Botticelli’s work, who succeeded in adopting the detailed artistic technique of his master.
The delicate expressions on their faces and his decorative approach quickly led him to rise as one of Florence’s most sought-after painters.
At the age of 15, he opened his own workshop where he developed an exquisite taste for Platonism. He did it through the representation of very realistic figures in a sad and melancholic style. Neoplatonism appealed to different themes of Christian inspiration with numerous pagan elements.
Many of his biographers and some historians have seen an unrequited love for the model in his work The Birth of Venus . However, this hypothesis could not be tested. It is known that Sandro Botticelli had a homosexual relationship with a young man and that, at some point in his life, he was accused of it.
Beyond the theories about his love relationships, we know that Botticelli managed to be an outstanding artist, with some fame, money and great prestige. His early connection to the Medici family provided Botticelli with a good social position.
Sandro Botticelli: adulthood
Botticelli’s fame only grew. In Florence he was recognized as an artist of great talent and the Medici sought him to represent their most important members on canvas.
His relationship with the Medici brought Botticelli a fame of extraordinary proportions. As a consequence, he was summoned by the papacy of Rome to paint some sections of the Sistine Chapel. His works for this commission included three large pieces and several portraits.
His later career would be marked by the influence of one of the most famous men of the Florentine Renaissance period, Girolamo Savonarola, a very charismatic Dominican friar. The friar’s sermons against the moral corruption of the Renaissance clergy gave rise to new ideological convictions that captured many, including Sandro Botticelli.
These were convulsive moments in Florence and Savonarola’s religious and moral preaching acquired heretical overtones in the eyes of the Vatican, which would end up burning him at the stake, accused of being heretic. His relationship with the Dominican and his admiration for his speech posed, for Botticelli, numerous problems after the fall and tragic end of Savonarola.
Still, Botticelli still had a major change to experience within the Renaissance movement. Techniques and new styles were advancing very fast and Botticelli was beginning to lag behind.
The new emerging painters and geniuses, such as Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, possessed newer techniques that put the previous period aside. On May 17, 1510, Sandro Botticelli died in the same city where he was born.
Sandro Botticelli’s work is extensive and widely known. He enjoyed great popularity in life, although, after his death, his work was relegated to the background before the magnificence of the great painters who emerged in the last stage of the Renaissance.
It would not be until the 19th century when Botticelli’s work would be recovered and, as a consequence, it would be given the unmatched value it displays.
Sandro Botticelli’s works are many: from the 102 drawings that served as illustrations to Dante’s The Divine Comedy , to The Adoration of the Magi. Without forgetting works such as: Venus and Mars , Pallas and the Centaur , The Temptation of Christ , The Virgin of the Rose Bush or The Annunciation .
Sandro Botticelli and the metamorphosis of the soul
But if we have to highlight two works from his entire production, without any doubt, we will choose E l Birth of Venus and La Primavera . These two works, along with Palas and the Centaur , were commissioned by the Medici and represent the metamorphosis of the soul according to the Platonic philosophy developed by Ficino’s academy.
Many interpretations have wanted to see in works such as The Spring and The Birth of Venus written by Ovidio episode that speaks of the transmutation of the soul through the Graces and other elements. A return to the primordial spiritual situation of the human being that, guided by the souls from beyond the grave, leads him to reach transcendence.
Sandro Botticelli’s work is one of the most interesting that the Renaissance has given us, that period of splendor in the arts that drastically changed the meaning of our civilization.
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