Biography of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)

Italian painter, called Sandro Filipepi, born in Florence in 1445 and died in the same city in 1510. He/She was a pupil of Filippo Lippi , Verrocchio.

Painter who knows all the representation system bequeathed by the previous two generations, will be a true reflection of the movements taking place in the Florence of his time.

You will work as a paid artist of the Medicis, knowing the Court that settles around Lorenzo the magnificent and movements and concerns that develop in it. It is time to formulate the neo-Platonic theories, based on the writings of Plato and Plotinus, from which it was intended to make a "concordatio" between the Christian and pagan thought. It is then when you publish the works of both philosophers, translated and commented.

Botticelli, share these ideas you will see reflected in his paintings. From the point of view of the representation he/she revisits all the previous inquiries, considering the crisis of the system of representation of the Quattrocento. It formulates a new painting based on prototypical issues of antiquity, especially mythological type; Although his work would have to separate two records: the religious painting, which is linked to the work of his master Filippo Lippi; and mythological painting, which uses the old songs readapting them at the time. These two records are going to develop at the same time, taking a major religious painting from 1485, when the preaching of Savonarola, against the Classicist and profane culture of the Medici court, adopts a tone of deep spirituality.(See Filippo Lippi).

His early works are a series of Virgin which is denoted the influence of Verrocchio, though already shows the linear fluidity is going to characterize. This first phase culminated in 1468 with the work La Virgen del Rosal, currently at the Museum of the Louvre, which was followed by La Fortaleza, held in 1470 for the Florence Court of goods; and San Sebastián, preserved in Berlin. Starting from 1470, is introduced in the Court of the Medici family, and leaves his workshop to work under the orders of this family. For those who performed masterpieces as the altarpiece of the Convertidas from 1470, the diptych of Judith of 1472, the Adoración de los Reyes Magos in 1475 and his masterful spring of 1478, made for the Villa of Castello of Lorenzo, maximum expression of humanistic of the Court of Lorenzo the magnificentclimate, whose genius line will remain in Pallas and the Centaur and the birth of Venus painted in the following years.

In 1481, is called to Rome to participate in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, where he/she made three scenes: Moses and the daughters of Jethro, the punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiron and stigmata of Christ, as well as some figures of popes, in which was working until 1482. These works shows a shift towards a more classical monumentality, which is maintained in later works such as the adoration of the Magi of 1482, preserved in the National Gallery of Washington, the Madonna of the Magnificat, 1485, now in the Uffizi, and the Madonna of the book from 1483. However an increasingly tense rhythm will be taking over of his painting that expresses the crisis of the moment and looks for a new religious passion. Works such as the Virgin and saints in 1485, of Berlin; The Virgen de la Granada, 1487, in the Uffizi; or the Virgin with the child and san Juanito, 1490; they reveal that continuous tension that crystallize in the altarpiece of San Marcos, Uffizi, done around 1490 and drawings to illustrate the Divine Comedy.

Portrait of the man's coin

His deep mystical crisis coincides with the fall of the humanist ideal and the preaching of Savonarola, moment from which will be genuine pictures of piety. The Virgin of Dresden, 1490; the Virgin of the Pavilion, 1495; the piety of Milan in 1495; they will give way to a complex symbolism works, such as the calumny of Apelles in 1495; History of illustrious women, of 1500 and the deserted from 1495. In their latest works the Nativity in 1501 and the Crucifixion of 1505, shows an archaic approach that reveals an open condemnation of the ideals of the time.

Religious painting

The Madonna of the Magnificat

Made approximately in 1485, it is conserved in the Museum of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It is made in the era in which Botticelli reaches its maximum expression of the ideals of the Court humanist of Lorenzo the magnificent, with works such as the birth of Venus, made two years earlier.

Painting in the form of Tondo, shows a tendency to classicism, absent in the early works of religious themes of the master. The inherited basic schemes of Filippo Lippi, showing a more sumptuous, elegant and refined painting have passed. The very classical composition is absolutely closed itself, describing a circular game, as the tondo, through the eyes of the characters that make it up.

Moses and the daughters of Jethro. Fresh from the Sistine Chapel

In 1481 Botticelli is called to Rome to participate in the completion of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, where they were working other important teachers of the time.Religious history is part of a very specific allusions to classical antiquity, through the introduction of Corinthian columns and a triumphal arch. It is the moment when the work of Botticelli acquires a greater monumentality and a further reference to classicism, which in spite of the composition is marked by a strong dynamism, almost dramatic, who takes over the figures. Its realization, as the entire output of the artist, shows a refined, stylish and elegant style.

The Madonna of the pomegranate

Made in 1487, approximately, it is conserved in the Uffizi. It is made at a time in which Botticelli walks towards the religious crisis and values that will produce the profound change of his last years.

In this work he/she tried to see a historical allusion to the taking of Granada by the Catholic monarchs, that for Europe the Arab world closes.

In the form of tondo, centered Virgin seems to drown by the pressure of the figures of angels in the background, there is a desire to invade all the space, in a permanent tension.

The Nativity

Mystic Nativity. National Gallery. London.

One of his last works, made in 1501, is preserved in the National Gallery in London. It is revealed throughout the transformation of the work of Botticelli, from the crisis personally suffered after the preaching of Savonarola, moment in which he/she leaves completely mythological painting.

The linear characteristic of the work of Botticelli is extremely, emphasized along with the tendency to bend and styling. This means that he/she has played on more than one occasion as a conscious return to the International Gothic, even to the use of the symbolism of the color, such as a complaint to the environment that had been generated at the Court of the Medici. There is no allusion to the space or the perspective and its figures seem to operate with unrealistic dance steps.

Mythological painting

By the mythological theme, Botticelli arrives to finish the process of secularization of the arts that had been taking place throughout all of the Quattrocento. This genre was definitely the closest and the most representative of classical antiquity; Botticelli will come closer to it through literary texts, especially the work of Ovid metamorphoses. At the same time will be the ultimate expression of refinement humanist that had taken place at the Court of Lorenzo the magnificent, and the embodiment of the neo-Platonic ideas, search and expression of beauty.

Most of these works are preserved in the Museum of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. All of them have a double meaning of symbolic form; on the one hand, through old issues of moral types, such as those expressed in the metamorphoses, Botticelli tried to establish the concordattio between the pagan and Christian, since the subject was valid for both. On the other hand, it's a bridge of union between the expression of neo-Platonic ideas and the representation of events that were happening at the Medici court. The principles of Neoplatonism which had to be expressed are the already mentioned concordattio between the Christian and the pagan world, and the harmonic concordattio of the contrary principles that exist in the world, the intelligence forces and forces most animals. The harmony and beauty of the universe had to be expressed in reality.

The birth of Venus

Birth of Venus. Botticelli. Italy.

It is a theme taken directly from the work of Ovid's the metamorphoses. This painting has been interpreted as one of the of greater neoplatonic sense; symbolically express the birth of the Humanitas Venus, i.e., unity, harmony, framed within the three elements: land, sea and air.

Venus has emerged from the sea on a shell that is pushed to the beach by the breath of the winged gods, between a rain of flowers. About one o'clock or nymphs, sand-waiting with a purple robe.

There is concern by the perspective or the creation of space, there is a conscious disregard to experienced previously. The concern focuses on the line, the curved, flat bottoms, and atmospheric depth. Premium drawing on the imitation of nature. It is a way to represent that today is called intellectualized art.

Venus and Mars

Preserved in the National Gallery in London. It is a work that have been attributed to numerous interpretations. From the point of view of neoplatonic philosophy, it is interpreted as the Humanitas Venus that exerts its beneficial influence on Mars, symbol of most animal forces, trying a complementarity of contrary elements; It is the expiration of Humanitas Venus over the primitive forces, the expiry of the reason. On the other hand has been in relation to the life of the Medici, according to this theory, it would represent Giuliano de Medici with his lover.

The composition consists of two diagonals, the first marked by the body of Venus and Mars, and the second defined by the Spear of the latter subject by fauns, which serves at the same time as an element of unity between two very different figures.

Is it dispenses with the three-dimensionality, with a concern for the linear, almost by the calligraphic and curve, predominating the drawing. Search for atmospheric feeling, too soft, unnatural colors.


The spring. Botticelli, (1478). Florence.

Like the previous one, it is a work that will have poured many interpretations; from the neoplatonic explanation of the myth of Venus, until different transpositions of the life of the Medicis.

Develops the theme of the birth of the goddess Flora, spring sowing spring, forming a symmetrical axis with Venus, which appears as a goddess of love. The three graces are presented half-naked, bound, dancing, way to represent that will have a major impact.

The figures have a tendency to dreamy melancholy. With an exaggeratedly high Canyon and youth ages, seeks an ideal of beauty that does not correspond with the copy of nature with the reality. Flora shows the same face to Venus; He/She has performed as a portrait of Simoneta Vespuchi, with elongated and melancholy, all figures of Botticelli's own face. The perspective is not used in depth, all bodies have the same canon, although they are in different planes. Create curtains that prevent from seeing the bottom.

The color is very personal with a tendency toward the cold range. Of course, the biggest concern is the linearity, the curve, the drawing.

The thematic symbolism is very complex for a viewer who has not shared the cultural environment of the Medicis. It is an elitist painting, that will have few followers; in fact, Botticelli had a workshop, their way of conceiving the painting died with him.


Preserved in the Uffizi in Florence. This topic had already been treated before in the ancient world. It is one of the last works of the artist, and seems inspired in his description of a famous painting by Apelles Luciano.

Allegorical vision of slander, in which all the vices of the individual, are represented only in the left appears forgotten the naked truth.

It seems that this picture was painted by Botticelli in response to an accusation that had made him.

Architecture and classical sculptures are an allusion to the Florentine sculpture of Donatello, the reliefs represent themes of antiquity.


ARGAN, G.C.: Botticelli. Barcelona, 1968.

ANGELIS, r.: Botticelli. San Sebastián, 1981.

BECHERUCCI, l.: Botticelli: the spring. Granada, 1968.

BERENSON, B.: The Italian painters of the Renaissance. Barcelona, 1954.

BERGER, r.: The knowledge of painting. Barcelona, 1976.

BUSIGNANI, a.: Botticelli. Barcelona, 1967.

ENZINA, j. of the: the Italian painters of the Renaissance. Mexico, 1949.

MANDEL, g.: The pictorial work full of Botticelli. Barcelona, 1983.

SEBASTIAN, S.: Art and humanism. Madrid, 1978.

TESTI CRISTIANI, M.L.: Botticelli. Madrid, 1994.

VV..: Botticelli. Granollers, Marin, 1979.

VENTURI, l.: Botticelli. Barcelona, 1966.