d. May 17, 1510
“Figures are designed and painted with plastic subtlety and confident mastery; they are incarnate with vitality, each seeming to have taken form unforced, imaged on wall or panel or canvas with resolute immediacy.” – Ronald Lightbown, “Botticelli: Life and Work”
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli, was an esteemed painter during the early Italian Renaissance. His most famous works include “The Birth of Venus,” “The Primavera” and “The Adoration of the Magi.”
The son of a tanner, Botticelli was born in Florence, Italy—the epicenter of the Renaissance—where he lived for most of his life. He trained under Fra Filippo Lippi, one of the city’s most prominent artists. As Lippi’s apprentice, Botticelli studied composition and painting techniques. He began painting frescoes in Florentine churches and spent most of his career employed by the politically powerful Medici family.
Botticelli painted prolifically during the 1480s. During this period, he completed “The Birth of Venus” (c. 1484-86). Groundbreaking for its nudity and the artist’s use of a canvas, as opposed to a traditional wood-panel substrate, it is one of the most celebrated and iconic paintings in history. Based on the writings of Homer, it depicts the naked goddess Venus arriving at the shore on a seashell. “The Birth of Venus” hangs in the famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Botticelli’s late 1470s painting, “The Primavera” (meaning “spring”) features a gathering of mythological figures in a grove. Considered one of the gallery’s most significant works, it also resides in the Uffizi.
By 1472 Botticelli had his own workshop. He mentored Filippino Lippi, the son of his teacher. As his success grew, Botticelli was summoned by the pope to help paint the walls of the Sistine Chapel in Rome
Botticelli never married. He was friends with Leonardo da Vinci, and the two collaborated. Many understood Botticelli to be homosexual. Although most of his subject matter concerned mythological characters, the Madonna and religious scenes, Botticelli also painted portraits in which art historians have noted homoeroticism.
Botticelli is regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time. His paintings adorn the walls of the world’s most prestigious galleries and museums. In 2016 he was portrayed in the international television series “Medici: Masters of Florence.”