The Early Renaissance




Renaissance Art Map
Candro Botticelly  "Visual Poetry"
    Early life and career    
    Devotional paintings     
    Secular patronage and works    
    Mythological paintings    
    How the Nymph became a Goddess    
    Botticelli: lyrical precision    
    Late works    
    Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy and Dravings    
    APPENDIX: Venus - The Evening Star


Sandro Botticelli




Secular patronage and works.

Botticelli is the earliest European artist whose paintings of secular historical subjects survive in some number and are equal or superior in importance to his religious paintings. Nevertheless, much of his secular work is lost: from a working life of some 40 years, only eight examples by him survive in an already well-established genre, the portrait. One of these, the portrait of a young man holding a medal of Cosimo de' Medici (c. 1474; Uffizi), is especially significant because in it Botticelli copied the Flemish painter Hans Memling's recently invented device of setting the figure before a landscape seen from a high vantage point. This is the earliest instance of the influence on Botticelli of contemporary Flemish landscape art, which is clearly visible in a number of his landscape settings.

Perhaps it was Botticelli's skill in portraiture that gained him the patronage of the Medici family, and in particular of Lorenzo de' Medici and his brother Giuliano, who then dominated Florence. Botticelli painted a portrait of Giuliano and posthumous portraits of his grandfather Cosimo and father Piero. Portraits of all four Medici appear as the Three Magi and an attendant figure in the "Adoration of the Magi" from Santa Maria Novella. Botticelli is also known to have painted (1475) for Giuliano a banner of Pallas trampling on the flames of love and Cupid bound to an olive tree. This work, though lost, is important as a key to Botticelli's use of classical mythology to illustrate the sentiment of medieval courtly love in his great mythological paintings.

After Giuliano de' Medici's assassination in the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478, it was Botticelli who painted the defamatory fresco of the conspirators on a wall of the Palazzo Vecchio. Lorenzo certainly always favoured Botticelli, as Vasari claims, but even more significant in the painter's career was the lasting friendship and patronage of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, head of the junior Medici line and at first a covert and then from 1494 an open opponent of the senior line. Tommaso Soderini, who secured for Botticelli in 1470 the commission for the "Fortitude," and Antonio Pucci, for whom he painted his earliest surviving tondo, were both prominent Medicean partisans, as was Giovanni Tornabuoni, who about 1486-87 commissioned Botticelli's most important surviving secular frescos.



The Birth of Christ

Fresco, 200 x 300 cm
Santa Maria Novella, Florence


Fresco, 243 x 550 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Adoration of the Magi

Tempera on panel, 70 x 103 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington



The Annunciation

c. 1485
Tempera and gold on wood, 19,1 x 31,4 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Cestello Annunciation

Tempera on panel, 150 x 156 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

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