The Early Renaissance




Renaissance Art Map
Candro Botticelly  "Visual Poetry"
    Early life and career    
    Devotional paintings     
    Secular patronage and works    
    Mythological paintings    
    How the Nymph became a Goddess    
    Botticelli: lyrical precision    
    Late works    
    Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy and Dravings    
    APPENDIX: Venus - The Evening Star


Sandro Botticelli




Late works.

An incipient mannerism appears in Botticelli's latest works of the 1480s, but the magnificent Cestello "Annunciation" (1490; Uffizi) and the small "Pietа" now in the Poldi-Pezzoli Museum prove that he could still produce masterpieces. But after the early 1490s his style changed markedly: the paintings are smaller in scale, the figures in them are now slender to the point of idiosyncrasy, and the painter, by accentuating their gestures and expressions, concentrates attention on their passionate urgency of action. This mysterious retreat from the idealizing naturalism of the 1480s perhaps resulted from Botticelli's involvement with the fiery reformist preacher Girolamo Savonarola in the 1490s. The years from 1494 were dramatic ones in Florence: its Medici rulers fell, and a republican government under Savonarola's dominance was installed. Savonarola was an ascetic idealist who attacked the church's corruption and prophesied its future renewal. According to Vasari, Botticelli was a devoted follower of Savonarola, even after the friar was executed in 1498. The spiritual tensions of these years are reflected in two religious paintings, the apocalyptic "Mystic Crucifixion" (1497; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.) and the "Mystic Nativity" (1501; National Gallery, London), which expresses Botticelli's own faith in the renewal of the church. "The Tragedy of Lucretia" (c. 1499) and "The Story of Virginia Romana" (1499) appear to condemn the Medici's tyranny and to celebrate republicanism.

Botticelli, according to Vasari, took an enduring interest in the study and interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy. He made some designs to illustrate the first printed edition of 1481 and worked intermittently over the following years on an uncompleted set of large drawings that matched each canto with a complete visual commentary. He was also much in demand by engravers, embroiderers, and tapestry workers as a designer; among his few surviving drawings are some that can be associated with these techniques.

Although Vasari describes Botticelli as impoverished and disabled in his last years, other evidence suggests that he and his family remained fairly prosperous. He received commissions throughout the 1490s and was still paying his dues, if belatedly, to the Company of Saint Luke, the Florentine artists' guild, in 1505. But the absence of any further commissions and the tentativeness of the very last Dante drawings suggest that he was perhaps overtaken by ill health. Upon his death in 1510 he was buried in the Ognissanti. About 50 paintings survive that are either wholly or partly from his own hand. The Uffizi Gallery's magnificent collection of his works includes many of his masterpieces.


The principal monographic studies are Hermann Ulmann, Sandro Botticelli (1893), in German; Herbert P. Horne, Alessandro Filipepi, Commonly Called Sandro Botticelli, Painter of Florence (1908, reprinted as Botticelli, Painter of Florence, 1980); Jacques Mesnil, Botticelli (1938), in French; and Ronald Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli, 2 vol. (1978), comprising a critical biography and a complete catalog, with a 2nd ed. of vol. 1, Sandro Botticelli: Life and Works (1989).

  Ronald W. Lightbown

Encyclopaedia Britannica


The Virgin and Child with Three Angels (Madonna del Padiglione)

c. 1493
Tempera on panel, diameter 65 cm
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan



Lamentation over the Dead Christ with Saints

c. 1490
Tempera on panel, 140 x 207 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich



St John on Patmos

Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

St Augustine in His Cell

Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

St Jerome in Penitence

Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Miracle of St Eligius

Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

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