Renowned for his Birth of Venus (1485) and Primavera (1477), Sandro Botticelli is considered an artist who epitomizes the true spirit of the Italian Renaissance.
Originally named Alessandro Di Mariano Filipepi, Boticelli was born in Florence, Italy in 1445. His father was fifty years old, and his mother was forty at the time of his birth. Sources believe that he was later given the nickname “Botticelli” (“The Little Barrel”) by his eldest brother Giovanni.
He spent his childhood in Florence. His father wanted him to become a goldsmith at the age of twelve. However, this was not his true calling. It was from his brother that he discovered his real passion – painting.
In 1467 Botticelli left his teacher Fra Filippo Lippi, who taught him to draw outlines, to create the effect of transparency, and to give his pictures a certain fluidity and harmony. Soon after, he began to work with painter and engraver Pollaiolo.
In 1470, he decided that he was accomplished enough in his art to open his own study in Florence. The first order he received was to paint the famous Allegory of Attitude – the work that would launch his career. All of Florence came to admire the masterpiece, making him the envy of other painters. The elite Florentine families who were always in search of young artists to contribute their work in order to increase the family’s prestige, flocked to him to have a Madonna painted, a Saint Elizabeth, and a Saint Augustine.
Boticelli spent all his life in Florence except for a visit to Rome to paint the wall frescoes of the Sistine Chapel in 1481. He decorated it with stories taken from the Old and New Testaments, such as The Trials of Moses, The Punishment of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and The Trials of Christ.
In and around 1487, Boticelli’s work is influenced by the spiritual crisis caused by the monk Fra Girolamo Savonarola. This man spoke out against anything that was not “necessary to the life of man,” and went so far as to destroy writings and works of art in his bonfire of vanities. During this time of upheaval, Boticelli devoted himself to producing religious compositions. Such paintings as The Annunciation and The Crowning of the Virgin exemplified great simplicity and devotion.
In 1501, Boticelli starts to live apart from the rest of the society. The public thinks of him as bizarre, and orders for paintings become relatively scarce.
Sandro Botticelli died in 1510 at the age of 65. Following his death, his work became virtually forgotten. It was not until centuries later that the English Romantics rediscovered his paintings in the nineteenth century. His popularity began to rise at the beginning of the 20th century.