Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi was originally from Florence, Italy, born around the year 1445 and is most commonly known as Sandro Botticelli. During this period, his hometown was overflowing with artists and intellectuals. Florence was building a reputation of celebrating the work of writers, philosophers, and visual artists, resulting in a large number of people immigrating from other parts of Europe. After a period of what some historians call dark times, peace and tranquility began to uprise. The Early Renaissance marked the start of one of the most famous and beloved Eras of the art world.
As a young boy in school, Botticelli was already gifted in the art of drawing and enjoyed to play practical jokes on his friends. Determined to become an artist, he dropped out of school at fourteen to dedicate himself to studying art. At about 1461, Botticelli’s skill led him to learn under one of the most important painters of the time, Fra Filippo Lippi, who worked for the most wealthy family of Florence and the main patron of the arts, the Medicis. Through Lippi, the young apprentice learned many drawing and painting skills and techniques, including the art of fresco painting, considered the most difficult painting technique to accomplish, which consists of painting with pigments on wet plaster. Botticelli began his own art studio and workshop at only fifteen. It was through Lippi that Botticelli met the Head of the Medici Family, Cosimo de Medici, who became his main patron. The artist thrived under his patronage, creating breathtaking religious paintings and some artwork portraying mythological themes as well.
It is known that Botticelli was against marriage and never tied the knot in his lifetime. In spite of that, art historians have speculated about a possible love interest: Simonetta Vespucci, a noblewoman known for her beauty and who tragically died at the young age of 22. Botticelli painted a couple of portraits of Vespucci, including Portrait of a Young Woman, but throughout the artist’s career, she seems to appear as other characters in his work. Vespucci was Botticelli’s muse and can be seen as Flora in The Birth of Venus (some say even Venus herself), or as one of the Three Graces in La Primavera, both artworks located in Uffizi. Along with Venus and Mars and Pallas and the Centaur, La Primavera and The Birth of Venus are the most iconic works of the Early Renaissance and have been studied and analyzed countless times by art historians. The Renaissance era thrived by renewing classical ancient Greek mythology.
Botticelli’s prime came by his thirties, and in 1481 he was commissioned to conclude one of his most prestigious works; Pope Sixtus IV summoned him to paint frescos in the newly built Sistine Chapel - about thirty years before Michelangelo painted the ceiling. There the artist painted beautiful religious works like Scene from the Life of Moses and The Temptation of Christ. By Botticelli’s mid-life, Florence wasn’t as peaceful as before, as it was taken by plagues as well as invasions. Because of the tumultuous situation, the Medici family were eventually expelled, leaving Botticelli without his patrons. Girolamo Savonarola, an intensely moralistic preacher, came to power and had a significant influence on Botticelli’s paintings, as he followed Savonarola’s ideals. By the end of his career, the Renaissance painter saw his work become less popular, until the point where he became virtually unknown. During the last year of his production, Botticelli was depicting expressive and distorted figures and experimenting with non-natural colors, which some historians link to early Mannerism. Botticelli passed away on May 1510 in Florence, and the importance of his art was rediscovered only by the late XIX century.