Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Let's Yak About Art-- Sandro Botticelli

Okay, don't say something will be weekly. I amend my first statement regarding Let's Yak About Art. It will be a regular feature, but it won't always be weekly. It may sometimes appear weekly, but you know spit happens and there I will go, blowing the weekly deal.

So, without further blatherings, here's Let's Yak About Art.


An interesting example of someone riding on the coattails of another is the painter Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510). Although often overlooked, he was one of the most influential painters of the Florence Renaissance, and a consummate coattail rider.

Along with Da Vinci and Michelangelo, Botticelli was supported by Lorenzo de’Medici, a member of the ruling family of fifteenth century Florence, Italy. Lorenzo, while a poor business man (he helped tank the family banking business), was successful at promoting the arts and philosophical learning. He secured patrons for his favored artists; he supported Neoplatonic debate that fueled the development of humanism. Lorenzo’s humanistic influence in Botticelli’s work can be seen in the neopagan themes in his most famous paintings, The Birth of Venus and Primavera. A few of his earlier religious works include members of the Medici clan-- for example, portraits of Cosimo, Giovanni and Giuliano de’ Medici appear in the Adoration of the Magi.

Pope Sixtus IV was briefly a patron of Botticelli. Sixtus IV summoned him to work on the Sistine Chapel. Scenes from the Life of Moses is one of the frescos he painted on the north and south walls of the chapel. His paintings in the Sistine Chapel did not achieve the fame of those completed by Michelangelo, and in fact are not considered some of his best work. Was this because Pope Sixtus IV was an archrival of the Medici family, Lorenzo specifically? That just might be the case, because Botticelli was religious man his whole life, so it doesn’t jive that his work on such a religious place wasn’t his best. Unless, professional loyalty got in the way.

Being a deeply religious man, Botticelli focused on various religious themes through out his career, which was typical during the Renaissance. He became interested in printing when he worked on illustrating Dante’s Inferno. When he began following Girolamo Savonarola, a religious zealot, he went so far as to renounce his pagan themed paintings, even throwing some of them into the pile at the Bonfires of the Vanities. However, was that because of his religious convictions or because he was riding a new set of coat tails? Savonarola became the ruler of Florence for a short period of time after the Medici family was displaced. As all weird things eventually must come to an end, Savorarola met his end the same way he gave it to those he deemed too sinful to live—by being hanged and burned at the same time.

Botticelli quit painting, deeming art to be a vain waste of time, yet he didn’t find another way to support himself. I’m under the impression he couldn’t find anymore patrons. Lorenzo was dead; Savonarola was dead. The new ruling Medicis didn’t seem to have the same zeal for art—also they might have been wary of Botticelli’s following of Savonarola, who turned on Lorenzo (formerly Savonarola’s patron and brought him to Florence). Botticelli stopped painting altogether in 1505, finishing a series of works on St. Zenobius. I guess he eeked by through charity support from former patrons, but died an impoverished man in 1510.

The Birth of Venus has been featured by Terry Gilliam in a Monthy Python’s Flying Circus animated sequence and the movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen; in the Simpsons; plus, on versions of Adobe Illustrator.


At 10:03 AM, Blogger deepsheep said...

Perhaps you might be interested in the alternative interpretation of Botticelli's the Birth of Venus and La Primavera:

Birth of Venus and La Primavera Conjoined


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