Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Art Blogging: Sandro Botticelli

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi (1445-1510), nicknamed Sandro Botticelli -- "Little Barrell", was an Italian Renaissance painter. In fact, he is often seen as the first of the Renaissance artists who defined the movement. He was an intensely devout Christian, even going so far as to burn his own works at the behest of radical preacher Girolamo Savonarola. Botticelli was a client of the Medici family, as well as the Vatican, for whom he helped decorate the Sistine Chapel. After his death, his reputation sharply waned, having been eclipsed by his immediate successors, and only came under critical appreciation once more in the 19th Century.

Botticelli is best known now for The Birth of Venus or Venus Anadyomene, a Western icon of beauty since the Renaissance. Originally created by 4th Century BC painter Apelles and described at length by Pliny the Elder, this motif was revived by early Renaissance artists and carried from then on by artists up to our own time.

La Primavera, depicting a Roman springtime festival, features (from left to right) Mercury, the Three Graces, Venus, Flora, the nymph Chloris, and her pursuer Zephyr. It is a symbolically detailed painting requiring an immense knowledge of Renaissance Italy for understanding. La Primavera most strongly reflects the humanistic embrace of the writings of Ovid during Botticelli's life.

In an age of illiteracy, didactic religious paintings could be useful for religious instruction, as seen here in The Temptation of Christ -- a fresco in the Sistine Chapel. Sixtus IV commissioned three artists to summarize the entire narrative of the Bible on the chapel walls in 1481. Sixtus carefully managed the composition of these works so that their imagery would suggest that the Popes were the legitimate successors to the Roman Emperors and wielded all legitimate temporal authority.


Anonymous said...

I always liked that Venus-on-the-half-shell pic. She ought to cover up a bit more though;)

John said...

If it was good enough for Adam and Eve....