SANDRO BOTTICELLI (1445-1510) A FLORENTINE RENAISSANCE ARTIST.HIS REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH TO PICTORIAL FORM WOULD CHANGE FLORENTINE ART DURING THE PERIOD OF THE RENAISSANCE.HIS ART WOULD INFLUENCE MICHELANGELO, RAPHAEL AND TITIAN DURING THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN THE 15TH CENTURY.PART 3

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In my final consideration of Sandro Botticelli I will consider the change in style of Botticelli’s art and the Influence of Savonarola the Dominican friar who was to influence not only Botticelli but Michelangelo and others.

Barbara Deimling continues to comment on Botticelli’s mythological paintings of the 1480’s.

” The mythological paintings of the 1480’s constitute an unusually homogenous group not only in pictorial content but also in stylistic expression”. [1]

” The beginning of Botticelli’s late period of creativity is masked by the painting ‘The coronation of the Virgin with 4 Saints which the artist executed some time around 1490″. [2].

Deimling comments that this change of style by Botticelli represents more medieval imagery reflecting size and formula.

” Botticelli was turning away from the well balanced Renaissance ideal with regard to the portrayal of bodies and going back to the medieval importance of size/formula”. [3].

This shows how Botticelli was reacting to religious influences mainly propagated by the Dominicans. ” Botticelli was reacting to the wave of new religious feeling which had been growing more and more in influence”. [4].

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Deimling now describes the influence of Savonarola the Dominican Monk  who had an important influence on Botticelli and others living in Florence.

” The protagonist in Florence of this inner changing of one’s ways was Girolamo Savonarola a Dominican monk who appealed to the citizens of Florence in his sermons calling for repentance to set themselves free from their sinful and dissipated lives”. [5].

” Like the majority of his contemporaries Botticelli- was deeply affected by Savonarola’s  rousing words. This may be observed not only in the stylistic changes visible in his work from the 1490’s but also in the drastic reduction in the proportion of secular subjects painted”.[6].

Deimling also shows that in the later portraits Botticelli  Landscapes are not evident.

” Attention should be drawn in conclusion to Botticelli’s late portraits. Now he no longer added landscape vistas or the view of inner rooms. Instead he reduced the background to a surface of one colour alone”. [7].

” This reductive manner of painting sometimes almost ascetic in its effects reflects Botticelli breaking away from the sumptuously ornamented decorative style in which he had previously treated his pictorial subjects”.[8].

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Deimling referring to this counter reformation considers the Crucifixion with the penitent Magdalene and Angels (Mystical crucifixion).

” Not until this picture is seen against the background of the religious and political changes in Florence at the time of Savonarola can it be understood”. [9].

” The paintings political and religious message finds a parallel in its stylistic form. As in the  paintings of the 1490’s the proportions  of the figures in this picture appear overlong. We are also struck by Botticelli’s renunciation of lavish wealth and extensive brightness of his earlier works”.[10].

The counter reformation was to end with a reaction against the Dominican’s religious fervour . Savonarola would be arrested tried and condemned to death.

” The fate of Savonarola , preaching in Florence was to change shortly after 1490. Savonarola was imprisoned and with the support of the pope Alexander V1th was accused of heresy and sentenced to death by strangulation”.[11]’

This was to affect Botticelli and he questioned the senior members of the nobility of Florence on  why Savonarola had to perish in this way.

” Botticelli showed himself deeply affected by these events. in a private meeting with one of the committee members he dared to ask why they had made Savonarola die such a shameful death”.[12].

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Deimling in referring to the History of Virginia and the History of Lucretia refer to Historical events during the period of republican rule in Rome and reactions to it.

” If we place the obvious republican inclinations of the person commissioning Botticelli’s two paintings within the context of Historical events in Florence then it would seem both pictures allude to the ousting of the Medici family and the ensuing establishment of the Florentine Republic”. [13].

This to a degree shows Botticelli’s republican sympathies as well.

Michael Levy a noted  Art Historian gives his view of the importance of Botticelli in Renaissance Florence.

” But a new sophisticated interest in antiquity is expressed in Florence in Sandro Botticelli a painter largely indifferent to problems of perspective and anatomy”. [14].

This confirms my prognosis that Botticelli would revolutionise  pictorial form.

” His ostensibly pagan pictures were for a narrow, literary and aristocratic circle fashionably neo platonic”. [15].

” Obscure layers of philosophical and literary meaning may exist without any diminution of beauty in the Primavera”. [16].

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Levy discussing the Primavera suggests that Botticelli’s line and form  shows his immaculate use of light and colour . it is a very deft touch.

” If the Primavera is like a tapestry the Birth of Venus is a bas-relief where light modelling or emphasises  the singing line which traces the airborne pair of winds”. [17].

” Botticelli’s very late pictures are shaken by emotion, ecstatic  with joy or grief”.[18].

Levy suggests that Botticelli’s last years were in retirement or considering religious mediation.

” His last years seem to have been spent in retirement and perhaps in religious mediation. Florence was passing chaotically  out of stability and prosperity under Lorenzo de Medici into a new age”. [19].

Levy makes reference to Savonarola in a very desultory fashion , a very Twentieth century viewpoint , one which Botticelli never shared.

” The last attempt at a Medieval city of God was the gloomy theocracy established at Florence under the Dominican  Savonarola. his prophetic preaching may have influenced Botticelli’s religious opinions”. [20].

In fact Levy is wrong as I have argued previously Savonarola’s preaching had a direct effect on Botticelli and other artists . This shows in his stylistic changes in  towards the end of his life.

This concludes my exploration of Sandro Botticelli. There is a major exhibition of Botticelli at the  Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington London . It is well worth a visit.

FOOTNOTES

  1. BOTTICELLI BARBARA DEIMLING TASCHEN BOOKS PG. 55
  2. DITTO. PG.67
  3. DITTO PG. 69
  4. DITTO PG. 69
  5. DITTO PG.69
  6. DITTO PG.69
  7. DITTO PG.74
  8. DITTO PG.74
  9. DITTO PG.81
  10. DITTO PG. 82
  11. DITTO PG.84-5
  12. DITTO PG.85
  13. DITTO PG.88
  14.  FROM GIOTTO TO CEZANNE A CONCISE HISTORY OF PAINTING MICHAEL LEVY PG.38
  15. DITTO PG 40
  16. DITTO PG 40
  17. DITTO PG 41-2
  18. DITTO PG.42
  19. DITTO PG.42
  20. DITTO PG. 44

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