Born Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, Sandro Botticelli was an early Renaissance painter who lived during the years 1445 to 1510 in Italy. He studied under the monk Filippo Lippi, who had connections to the Medici family. According to the PBS website, the young Botticelli acquired studio space within the Medici Palace in the 1460s, which opened the door to commissioned panel paintings and frescoes that influenced the artistic period. (See Reference 1)
Commissioned Works for Religious Authorities
In 1481, Pope Sixtus IV commissioned Botticelli and other artists to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel. This commission occurred nearly three decades before Michelangelo painted the famous ceiling fresco. Botticelli’s contributions to the chapel are the frescoes on the north and south wall of the nave: “Temptation of Christ,” “Trials of Moses” and “Destruction of Core, Dathan and Abiron.” The artist also painted five portraits of popes found in the Sistine Chapel. Botticelli’s work in the Sistine Chapel led to commissioned frescoes and canvases in Florence-area churches, such as the picture of Saint Augustine at the Church of Ognissanti. According to the New Advent website, part of Botticelli’s influence on the period came from his portraits of the Madonna. The work that Botticelli did secured him memberships on the committee that created the façade for the Florence Cathedral, and on the committee that chose the location for Michelangelo’s David.
Unique Art Form
In addition to painting religious scenes, Botticelli depicted mythological figures and scenes from his imagination. Instead of painting his subjects in the clothing of their own time, such as biblical characters in historical clothes, he painted them in traditional Florentine attire, a style of painting known as Christian neoplatonism. California State University East Bay states that this style is the reconciliation of Christian and classical views. Examples of this new art genre include the “La Primavera” and the “Birth of Venus.” The expressive, lyrical details of Botticelli's work and stylistic innovations set the standard for beauty during the Renaissance. According to the PBS website, the “Birth of Venus” was so new and controversial for its time that it remained behind closed doors for 50 years.
Commissioned Works for the Public
In the 1470s and 1480s, Botticelli was one of the leading portrait painters in Florence, according to James Patrick in the book “Renaissance and Reformation, Volume 1.”According to Patrick, the artist’s use of light and shade captured a subject’s character and features, a technique that defined portraiture during the period. An example of this is in the painting “Fortitude.” Many commissions came from Botticelli’s friends and their connections. Botticelli painted several of the works on the Medici properties. Guasparre dal Lama, in an effort to impress the Medici family, commissioned the “Adoration of the Magi,” according to PBS. Botticelli used the work to include an image of himself and his friends in the Medici family to make a statement about the power of knowing the right people.
After the Medici expulsion from Florence in the 1490s, Botticelli experienced a religious crisis and followed the teachings of Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola, according to the University of California. The focus of his paintings during the later years was almost exclusively religious as spiritual fervor swept Florence. Works that reflected Botticelli’s devotion include the “Pietà,” “Mystic Crucifixion,” “Lamentation over the Dead Christ” and “Mystic Nativity,” which influenced the portrayal of spirituality in other Renaissance works. Patrick writes that the works portrayed apocalyptic themes and the painter's views of society, as Botticelli believed that the end of the world was near.