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Birth name: Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi.
Born: c. 1445 Florence, Italy
Death: May 17, 1510 (aged 64–65) Florence, Italy.
Early Life
The youngest of five children, Botticelli’s father, a tanner, allowed
him to become an apprentice to a goldsmith.
During this apprenticeship, the goldsmith he worked with gave
him the name Botticelli, meaning ‘little barrel’
One of his elder brothers, Antonio, who afterwards became a
bookseller, was at this time in business as a goldsmith and
gold-leaf beater, and with him Sandro was very probably first
put to work
Sandro convinced his father that he wanted to study painting
and was chosen to be apprentice to the well known painter Fra
Filippo Lippi
Lippi was well known for how he used color on church
altarpieces and helped Sandro discover a similar style for his
own work.
Sandro Botticelli developed tender expressions in his subjects
face and in their gestures. He also used decorative details that
were influenced by his training.
By the time he was 15 years old, he was able to open a
workshop dedicated to his own work.
One of Sandro's earliest works, "Adoration of the Magi" at the
National Gallery, London , shows him almost entirely under the
influence of his first master.
Left in Florence on Fra Filippo's departure to Spoleto, he can
be traced gradually developing his individuality under various
influences, among which that of the realistic school of the
Pollaiuoii is for some time the strongest.
From that school he acquired a knowledge of bodily structure
and movement.
His portraits seemed to have a melancholy or sad characteristic
to them. Sandro stressed line and detail using them to bring his
characters alive – as if acting out a scene. He painted religious
He included in his style a flowing characteristic that would
clearly identify work as his. Botticelli also included NeoPlatonism in his work. This meant that he would bring together
in one painting ideas that belong to both Christianity and pagan
ideas which may have included mythology.
One theme that Botticelli used over and over again was the
idea of a very sad young girl that was detached from what was
going on around her. This theme appeared in many of his
portraits throughout his career. Another theme Botticelli liked
tackling were the roles male and females played in society.
Sometimes Sandro would show traditional roles, but other
times, he showed females as the dominant, most important
Botticelli and the Medici
Sandro Botticelli’s work was most
in demand by the Medici
Botticelli is thought to have used
them as subjects for a large
number of his works.
They traveled in very important
circles and introduced Botticelli to
some of the most influential
In these different settings, Sandro
gathered material to use in his
portraits and scene portrayals. The
Medici family would pay huge sums
of money for Botticelli’s work.
Medici family
Personal Life/Culture
In 1481, Botticelli was invited to Rome to take part in the
painting of the Sistine Chapel. While there, Botticelli worked on
several pieces in the Chapel. In all, Botticelli painted three large
pieces, as well as seven portraits
Sandro became a follower of the monk Savonarola who was a
prominent civic leader in Florence. He stressed giving up all
worldly things. He was very charismatic and often spoke of
death and God’s wrath upon the people.
Many of Botticelli’s previous paintings were considered ungodly
and were burned along with objectionable books and playing
cards. When Savonarola’s popularity ended, he was burnt in
the center of Florence
Personal Life/Culture
Botticelli’s later years seemed to be a disturbing time for him. As times
changed in Florence, Botticelli tried to keep up. He often took on difficult
commissions that other painters turned down. His rotating style
reflected that Botticelli was struggling as a painter. His paintings were full
of emotion raging from violence to grace and compassion.
Sandro Botticelli died at the age of 65. his work lay forgotten for over
400 years after his death
Botticelli never wed, and expressed a strong aversion to the idea of
marriage, a prospect he claimed gave him nightmares. The popular view is
that he suffered from unrequited love for Simonetta Vespucci a married
noblewoman. She had served as the model for The Birth of Venus and
recurs throughout his paintings, despite the fact that she had died years
earlier, in 1476. Botticelli asked that when he die he be buried at her feet
Date of Creation:
Height (cm):
Length (cm):
Art Movement:
Current Location:
Florence, Italy
Displayed at:
Galleria degli Uffizi
Birth of Venus – Formal Framework
Botticelli's Birth of Venus is one of the most treasured artworks of the
Renaissance. In it the goddess Venus (known as Aphrodite in Greek mythology)
emerges from the sea upon a shell aligned with the myth that explains her birth.
Her shell is pushed to the shore from winds being produced by the wind-gods in
amongst a shower of roses. As Venus is about to step onto the shore, a Nymph
reaches out to cover her with a cloak.
Venus is illustrated as a beautiful and chaste goddess and symbol of the coming
spring. Her depiction as a nude is significant in itself, given that during this time in
Renaissance history almost all artwork was of a Christian theme, and nude
women were hardly ever portrayed.
Many aspects of Botticelli's Birth of Venus are in motion. For example, the leaves
of the orange trees in the background, ringlets of hair being blown by the
Zephyrs, the roses floating behind her, the waves gently breaking, and the cloaks
and drapery of the figures blown and lifted by the breeze.
The pose of Botticelli's Venus is reminiscent of the Venus de Medici, a marble
sculpture and gem inscription from Classical antiquity in the Medici collection
which Botticelli had opportunity to study.
Birth of Venus – Formal Framework
Use of technique:
Botticelli's Venus was the first large-scale canvas created in Renaissance
Florence. He prepared his own tempera pigments with very little fat and
covered them with a layer of pure egg white in a process unusual for his
time. His painting resembles a fresco in its freshness and brightness. It is
preserved exceptionally well and the painting today remains firm and elastic
with very little cracks.
Colour palette:
Venus's long golden hair sweeps gracefully about her. This use of gold may
have been inspired by Donatello's Penitent Magdalen.
Mood, tone and emotion:
Birth of Venus is dependent on the delicacy of Botticelli's line. The
proportions show their greatest exaggeration, yet the long neck and
torrent of hair help to create the mystifying figure.
Birth of Venus – Cultural Framework
It is in keeping with Renaissance era inspiration that one of
Botticelli's most famous paintings represents not a Christian legend,
but a classical myth - the Birth of Venus.
Whilst the works of the classical poets had been known through the
middle Ages, it was only at the time of the Renaissance, when the
Italians tried so passionately to recapture the former glory of Rome
that classical myths become popular among educated laymen.
Birth of Venus – Cultural Framework
For the men of the Renaissance, the mythology of the Greeks and
Romans represented a superior form of truth and wisdom.
Whilst Botticelli carried out the artwork, it is highly likely that the
commissioner (a member of the powerful Medici) provided the
original source of inspiration and that either he, or one of his learned
friends, explained to the artist what was the story, as recounted by
the ancients regarding Venus rising from the sea.
The story would have been seen as a symbol of mystery in which the
divine message came into the world, and Botticelli has done his best
to depict this myth in a worthy manner.
+ Summary
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus owes its inspiration
to the classical ideas and ideals of ancient
Greece and Rome, which were becoming
increasingly popular during the Early
Renaissance in fifteenth-century Italy.
The mythological figure of Venus was the
symbol of female desirability and represented
beauty and pleasure.
Here she is shown being blown gently ashore
by the winds soon after her ‘birth’ as a fullygrown woman. Her pose was inspired by the
classical sculptures that Botticelli would have
seen in the collection of his patrons, the
Medici family.
Painted at a time when naked women
symbolised sinful lust, Botticelli’s Venus
remained modest. He exaggerated the length
of her neck and slope of her shoulders to
enhance her natural elegance and grace, in
accordance with contemporary taste.