TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
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Sandro Botticelli

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Gothic and Early Renaissance
 
 
 
Sandro Botticelli
 
 
 

Primavera - Spring

How the Nymph became a Goddess

 
 
 
Iron ore, in quattrocento Italy, was found solely on the island of Elba, where the mines belonged to a family called Appiani. In 1478 Lorenzo de' Medici wished to acquire the mining rights. Lorenzo was known as "the Magnificent", the uncrowned king of Florence. The respective contract was signed, and, in May 1482, there was a wedding: Lorenzo the Magnificent's cousin, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, married Semirarmde Appiani. There is no evidence to suggest that the wedding was arranged by Lorenzo the Magnificent and the Appiani family - common practice in ruling families at the time - to promote trade. It nonetheless served that purpose ably.

The conjunction of mine owners and mining interests, or perhaps — who knows! - the joining in wedlock of lovers, was the occasion which prompted Botticelli's Primavera. This, in any case, is generally assumed. Nor is it unlikely either: although undated, the style of the painting is that of Botticelli's other works of this period.
It was usual in upper class circles to provide newly-weds with a fully furnished home, including works of art. The painting was later listed in Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco's inventary, so that scholars now suppose it was executed for the younger Lorenzo (rather than for Lorenzo the Magnificent, as previously thought); it hung in the antechamber of the master bedroom.

Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco, like his powerful cousin and in keeping with family tradition, was a patron of philosophy and the arts. The great humanist Ficino supervised his education, while the poet Poliziano dedicated verses to him. Besides the Primavera, Botticelli painted The Birth of Venus and Pallas and the Centaur for Lorenzo. For thirty years, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco was entirely dominated by his powerful and more "magnificent" cousin, who made him ambassador to the pope and gave him the task of conveying the official congratulations of the ruling house of Florence to the newly crowned French king. At the same time, however, Lorenzo did everything he could to prevent his younger cousin from growing powerful. Tensions arose between them, and rivalry. When the Medicis were expelled from Florence after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco was permitted to stay. He abandoned the Medici family name, calling himself "Popolano", after the "populist" party, instead. He died in 1503, at the age of 40.

He married at the age of 19, a time of life that is frequently compared to spring. Spring, too, or Primavera, is the title by which the painting is commonly known today. It was first described by the artist and writer Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century: "Venus, adorned with garlands by the Graces, annouces the Spring." During the 17th and 18th centuries the painting was called The Garden of the Hesperides. According to the ancient myth, golden apples grew in this garden. They were guarded by a dragon, and by the Hesperides, daughters of the Titan Atlas. There is no dragon here, and whether the dancing women really are Graces, or even Atlas's daughters, is a matter of some dispute. Venus stands at the centre of the painting. Zephyrus is the figure on the right, blowing pleasant breezes that bring eternal spring. The goddess Flora scatters her flowers, while on the left, the god Mercury keeps watch, sheltering the garden against threatening clouds.

Besides obvious references to fertility and spring, there are two hidden allusions to the name of the bridegroom. On the right, laurel trees sway in the wind; their Latin name was laurus, in which contemporaries would have heard Laurentius, the Latin name for Lorenzo. Venus' golden apples are here painted as oranges, known in antiquity as the "health fruit": medica mala. From here to the name Medici is hardly very far. Allusions of this kind were the joy of an educated public.
 
 
 
88a
 






Sandro Botticelli
Spring
1482



Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482



Chloris
















Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482

Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482


Various nineteenth-century art buffs let it be known that the features of members and friends of the Medici family could be identified in the faces of Botticelli figures. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim. At the same time, however, the figures in Botticelli's paintings were certainly known to his contemporaries: not as individuals, but as figures from Greek and Roman mythology.
They knew that Zephyrus, a wind god, was pursuing the nymph Chloris in this picture. The story was familiar enough, recorded by the Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.-18 A.D.), who allowed the nymph to tell the story herself: "Zephyrus caught sight of me, I avoided him, he followed, I took flight; he was the stronger ..."
Of course, the pursuit and rape of Chloris had a happy ending; we would otherwise be unlikely to find them in a wedding painting: Zephyrus turned the nymph into the goddess Flora, and married her. Botticelli paints Chloris and Flora as a couple. And indeed from then on, so Flora tells us, she had no reason for complaint:
"I enjoy eternal spring, a radiant season ... At the heart of the land of my dowry lies a fertile garden in the mildest of climates ... My noble husband filled it with flowers, saying: 'You, o goddess, shall rule over the flowers!'"
Flora thus became the goddess of flowers; Botticelli's blossoms look as if Flora herself has scattered them. Flora: "I often wished to count the colours arranged on the ground, but I could not. Together, they were greater than any number could be ... I was first to scatter new seed over countless peoples, before then the earth had but one colour."
There is nothing in Ovid to suggest that flowers sprang from Chloris' mouth when she cried for help. That is probably the artist's own invention. But when the goddess spoke, "spring roses were the breath that passed her lips". Afterwards she ascended "into the mild air, leaving nothing but a light fragrance. One simply knew: a goddess was here."
This lovely story comes from Ovid's "Fasti", a Roman calendar. Ovid tells a tale about the god revered on each feast day. Flora's feast day, for example, was called Floralia. Botticelli is unlikely to have read the "Fasti"; as the son of an uneducated tanner, he probably could not read Latin. However, it is known that Pohziano, a poet employed by the Medici family, held public lectures on Ovid's festive calandar in 1481. The wedding took place a year later. It is possible that Botticelli was inspired by Poliziano.
The lectures on Ovid were enormously popular, coinciding as they did with the rediscovery by Poliziano's more progressive contemporaries of Classical antiquity. The majority of Greek and Roman writers had been committed to oblivion for over a thousand years. The ancient gods and heroes had been swept aside by the one God, by Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints. But Classical authors now enjoyed a comeback. Their manuscripts were sought far and wide, and large sums were paid for copies. Ancient mythical figures began, in turn, to replace the Holy Family and saints.
In Florence, Poliziano was a major proponent of the rediscovery - or rebirth, for it became known as the Renaissance - of Classical art and literature. His real name was Angelo Ambrogini, born in Montepul-ciano in 1454. Like many humanist scholars and poets of his day, he gave himself a Latin name after his place of birth, the Latin word for which was Mons Politianus. He thus called himself Politianus, or, translated into Italian, Poliziano. It was he who coined the famous dictum: "Athens lies not in ruins, but brought her scholars, mice and men to set up house in Florence."




The flowers



Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482


Not only was Classical antiquity discovered anew, but Nature too. Botanists have identified the species of flower that Flora, wife of Zephyrus, appears to scatter in the painting. Among them are forget-me-not, hyacinth, iris, periwinkle, pheasant's-eye and anemone. Around her neck the goddess wears a wreath of myrtle; in her dress she carries wild roses; in her hair are violets, cornflowers and a sprig of wild strawberries. Apparently, these flowers all blossom in Tuscany in the month of May. Whatever the dictates of mythology and style, Botticelli's choice was true to Nature.
Botticelli's botanic realism corresponded to a newly awakened interest in Nature at the universities, where botany had become an academic subject. Pisa and Padua, the university towns of Florence and Venice, were the sites of the first botanic gardens.
Besides all else, the special attention devoted to Nature also had a practical side. Any Florentine who could afford to do so had a country house and farm not far from town. Once there, they would eat vegetables and fruit grown in their own garden and use oil from their own groves. Lorenzo the Magnificent is known to have owned a country villa near Careggi where he bred Calabrian pigs; at one of his other villas he bred Sicilian pheasants. He also introduced a species of rabbit from Spain.
Even a relatively poor man like Botticelli's father bought a small villa near Careggi. On 19th April 1494 Sandro Botticelli bought a country house outside Florence, admittedly with the help of his brother and nephews. The price was 155 gulden. That was approximately what he was paid for one and a half paintings.
It was not uncommon in Europe for the inhabitants of towns to own agricultural land. However, the difference between Florentines and the majority of other town dwellers, especially those in more northerly climes, was that the former also liked to live out of town. A book published at the time states: "In the crystal-clean air and pleasant countryside around Florence are many villas with wonderful vistas ..." In the same book we read: "A country house is like a reliable friend ... It keeps your troubles at bay all the year round."



Venus



Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482



Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482


Venus stands at the centre of the painting. The space between the branches of trees surrounding her head forms the shape of a halo. Her graceful pose and chaste clothes are rather more reminiscent of the Virgin Mary than of a goddess of sensual love. Classical antiquity ascribed two roles to Venus. On the one hand, certainly, she was the light-hearted, adulterous goddess, accompanied by her son Cupid, "who (painted near the Graces in this picture), blindly excited passion with his burning arrows. On the other, she was all harmony, proportion, balance. A civilizing influnce, she settled quarrels, eased social cohesion. She was the incarnation of eroticism - a creative rather than destructive force.
The vision of a Venus humanitas informed the ideal of womanhood in 15th-century Italy. In his treatise Il Libro del Cortegiano Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) wrote: "It is surely beyond dispute that there could be no contentment in a life without "women. Without them, life would be rough, lacking in tenderness, worse than the life of wild beasts. Can there be anybody who disputes this? Women drive from our hearts all evil, all baseness, all worry, misery, sadness. They inspire our minds to great things, rather than distracting us ..."
It goes without saying that Botticelli clothed his Venus in the robes of a married woman: she wears a bonnet and, draped over it, a veil. Hair was considered the weapon of the seductress; only young girls were permitted to let their hair hang loose.
The figures of the three Graces allow the artist to display the elaborate artistry with which the women of his time arranged their hair. To make their hair seem fuller, women would often use silk bands, false plaits and
other hairpieces. The most fashionable colour was a delicately tinted blonde, the product of strenuous bleaching and dyeing.
Under her dress and shawl, Venus wears a long chemise, of which the arms alone are visible. This was quite usual for a lady of Florence. However, it was unusual for a married woman to reveal her feet, or drape her shawl or cloak with such evident disregard for symmetry. Mercury's toga, too, is deliberately asymmetrical. This was thought to be in the antique manner, and Florentines would have considered it a token of Classical mythology.
What was utterly contemporary, and utterly 15th century, however, was the ideal of beauty shown in Botticelli's paintings: eyebrows drawn as gentle curves rather than a double arch, foreheads no longer high and shaved, as they had been during the Middle Ages, but linear and Greek and twice as broad as long. A rounded, slightly protruberant belly was now considered graceful. The beauty of the hand was accentuated by exhibiting it against the background of a dress or shawl - as does Venus in the painting.
While in Rome to assess the qualities of a potential bride for her son, Lorenzo the Magnificent's mother, Lucrezia, mentions two characteristics that were highly treasured at the time: "She is tall and has a white skin." Almost all of Botticelli's women are large, indeed slightly elongated, if not unnaturally tall. And as for white skin, even country girls are said to have gone to some length in order to procure the ideal pallor, using tinctures, pastry packs, cosmetic pastes, and avoiding sunlight. If the three Graces dancing in the shadows in the present painting seem almost carved from alabaster, this cannot solely be attributed to idiosyncracy of style on the artist's part, for their appearance is fully in keeping with contemporary notions of beauty.
The Florentine ideal of womanhood demanded not only beauty, but education. In wealthier families, women were taught the Classical subjects alongside their brothers; they were expected to hold their own in a discussion, and to please their husbands with intelligent conversation. Besides this, a woman had to know how to run a household, an ability which the practically-minded Florentines held in high esteem. She had to be thrifty, keep a clean house and give sound direction to the servants. Only the cash-books were out of bounds.

 

 
 
 


Flora



Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482

Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482


Flora is smiling. Smiling figures are a rarity in Renaissance painting. Flora's manner is confident and full of natural charm, possibly resembling that of the young women who posed as the goddess on carnival floats. Perhaps Botticelli was inspired by a spring festival in which the figure of Love was celebrated with dancing, jousting and banquets in the streets. The festival is supposed to have lasted two months.
Festivals were especially frequent in Florence under the Medicis. Craftsmen had previously been responsible for large festivals in the town, but now the new rulers footed the bill. Tournaments in medieval style were highly popular, giving an otherwise unwarlike class of merchants the opportunity to show off their strength and skills, as well as demonstrate their adoration of women by performing various acts of chivalry. A tournament of this kind, in honour of Lorenzo the Magnificent, took place in 1469. Its motto was "The Return of Time": an allusion to the return of spring. This was followed in 1475 by a famous tournament in honour of Lorenzo's brother Giuliano. This time the motto was "She is Incomparable"; "she" was in fact Simonetta Cattaneo, wife of Vespucci. Naturally, it was Botticelli who painted Giuliano's standards, and Poliziano who composed a poem to celebrate the event!
There are good reasons for the festive spirit which flourished under Medici rule: firstly, there was the more general mood of revival, the sense of vision that existed throughout the Renaissance; secondly, the success, as well as youth, of the ruling family. Botticelli was 30 at the time of the 1475 tournament, Lorenzo the Magnificant 25, his brother Giuliano 21, Giuliano's lady Si-monetta 22, Poliziano 21, while Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco was only 12 years old.
Simonetta died a year after the tournament. Giuliano was murdered, and Lorenzo the Magnificent wrote: "How sweet is youth, how swift its flight!" Ovid says much the same thing. Flora advises us to "pluck's life's beauty while it blooms".




The brooch



Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482


Botticelli's painting displays several examples of the goldsmith's art: Mercury's helmet and sword hilt, for example, or the brooches and necklaces of the Graces. Botticelli, once apprenticed to a goldsmith himself, was well acquainted with the craft.
This was not unusual at the time; several Florentine artists began their careers as goldsmiths. Painting pictures was considered the work of a craftsman - no different in status from the work of a smith. The term "art" had not yet gained currency. During the 15th century the Italian word "arte" connoted manual skill, a trade, a guild.
But the Renaissance changed all that. The rediscovery of Classical antiquity drew the attention of Botticelli's contemporaries to the enormous respect accorded artists during antiquity. They recalled that the Muses inspired artists, but not artisans. Artists gradually received a more privileged position and, as a consequence, better pay. Michelangelo, a generation after Botticelli, was the first artist to leap to fame
and riches. Pointing out that artists do not merely work with their hands, but also with their heads, Michelangelo set himself apart from the class of artisans.


Mercury

Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482

Sandro Botticelli (detail)
Spring
1482


Botticelli "uses his head" in a distinctive manner. Well acquainted with the theoretical trends and rediscovered myths of his day, he incorporates ideas -some veiled, some self-evident — into his paintings: he encourages his spectators to think. Paintings, in the Middle Ages, were the object of contemplation. Their new role was to provoke thought.
One theoretical trend dominant at the Medici court, for example, attempted to bring Christian ideas into line with those of Greek philosophers. Botticelli allows this project to enter the picture in the shape of Venus, who bears a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary. The figure's head is surrounded by a halo which can equally be seen as a space between branches.
Besides Cupid and the Graces, Venus' entourage also includes Mercury. He wears his traditionally winged shoes, and carries a wand with which to ward off clouds that might otherwise disturb eternal spring.
Contemporary symbolism made an upward gaze the sign of relations to the Beyond. This is congruent with the mythological attributes of Mercury, who acted as a messenger between humans and the gods and who guided the dead to the realm of shadows. Perhaps he signifies the transience of spring, the fugitive nature of youth, as lamented in Lorenzo's poem.
But Mercury was also the god of merchants, and was therefore hardly out of place at a wedding with a commercial background. Besides this, he - together with the goddess Flora and countless painted flowers - provides a further allusion to the wedding month: Mercury's day in the Roman calendar was 15th May; his mother was Maia who gave the month its name.
The artist speculated on his contemporaries' ability to recognize such allusions. He played cat and mouse with the spectators of his painting, refusing to commit himself. Here, too, Botticelli is in tune with contemporary theorists, one of whom wrote: "Divine things must be concealed under enigmatic veils and poetic dissimulation."

 

 
 
 
Botticelli: lyrical precision

(by Sister Wendy Beckett)


After Masaccio, Sandro Botticelli comes as the next great painter of the Florentine tradition. The new, sharply contoured, slender form and rippling sinuous line that is synonymous with Botticelli was influenced by the brilliant, precise draftsmanship of the Pollaiuolo brothers, who trained not only as painters, but as goldsmiths, engravers, sculptors, and embroidery designers. However, the rather stiff, scientifically formulaic appearance of the Pollaiuolos' painting of The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, for instance, which clearly follows anatomical dictates, finds no place in the paintings of Botticelli. His sophisticated understanding of perspective, anatomy, and the Humanist debate of the Medici court never overshadows the sheer poetry of his vision. Nothing is more gracious, in lyrical beauty, than Botticelli's mythological paintings Primavera and The Birth of Venus, where the pagan story is taken with reverent seriousness and Venus is the Virgin Mary in another form. But it is also significant that no one has ever agreed on the actual subject of Primavera, and a whole shelf in a library can be taken up with different theories; but though scholars may argue, we need no theories to make Primavera dear to us. In this allegory of life, beauty, and knowledge united by love, Botticelli catches the freshness of an early spring morning, with the pale light shining through the tall, straight trees, already laden with their golden fruit: oranges, or the mythical golden apples of the Hesperides? At the right, Zephyr, the warm wind of spring, embraces the Roman goddess Flora, or perhaps the earth nymph Chloris, diaphanously clad and running from his amorous clasp. She is shown at the moment of her metamorphosis into Flora, as her breath turns to flowers that take root over the countryside. Across from her, we see Flora as a goddess, in all her glory (or perhaps her daughter Persephone, who spends half her time beneath the earth, as befits the patron saint of flowers) as she steps forward clad in blossoms. In the center is a gentle Venus, all dignity and promise of spiritual joy, and above her, the infant Cupid aims his loving arrows. To the left, the Three Graces dance in a silent reverie removed from the others in time also, as indicated by the breeze that wafts their hair and clothes in the opposite direction from Zephyr's gusts. Mercury, the messenger of the gods, provides another male counterpart to the Zephyr. Zephyr initiates, breathing love into the warmth he brings to a wintry world, and Mercury sublimates, taking the hopes of humanity and opening the way to the gods.
Everything in this miraculous work is profoundly life-enhancing. Yet it offers no safeguards against pain or accident: Cupid is blindfolded as he flies, and the Graces seem enclosed in their own private bliss. So the poetry has an underlying wistfulness, a sort of musing nostalgia for something that we cannot possess, yet something with which we feel so deeply in tune. Even the gentle yet strong colors speak of this ambivalence: the figures have an unmistakable presence and weight as they stand before us, moving in the slowest of rhythms. Yet they also seem insubstantial, a dream of what might be rather than a sight of what is.
This longing, this hauntingly intangible sadness is even more visible in the lovely face of Venus as she is wafted to our dark shores by the winds, and the garment, rich though it is, waits ready to cover up her sweet and naked body. We cannot look upon love unclothed, says The Birth of Venus; we are too weak, maybe too polluted, to bear the beauty.

NEO-PLATONISM

The Birth of Venus, in fact, contains the first monumental image since Roman times of the nude goddess in a pose derived from classical statues of Venus. Moreover, the subject of the picture is clearly meant to be serious, even solemn. How could such images be justified in a Christian civilization, without subjecting both artist and patron to the accusation of neo-paganism? To understand this paradox, we must consider the meaning of our picture, and the general use of classical subjects in Early Renaissance art. During the Middle Ages, classical form had become divorced from classical subject matter. Artists could only draw upon the ancient repertory of poses, gestures, expressions, and types by changing the identity of their sources. Philosophers became apostles, Orpheus turned into Adam, Hercules was now Samson. When medieval artists had occasion to represent the pagan gods, they based their pictures on literary descriptions rather than visual models. This was the situation, by and large, until the mid-fifteenth century. Only with Pollaiuolo—and Mantegna in northern Italy—does classical form begin to rejoin classical content. Pollaiuolo's lost paintings of the Labors of Hercules (about 1465) mark the earliest instance, so far as we know, of large-scale subjects from classical mythology depicted in a style inspired by ancient monuments.
In the Middle Ages, classical myths had at times been interpreted didactically, however remote the analogy, as allegories of Christian precepts. Europa abducted by the bull, for instance, could be declared to signify the soul redeemed by Christ. But such pallid constructions were hardly an adequate excuse for reinvesting the pagan gods with their ancient beauty and strength. To fuse the Christian faith with ancient mythology, rather than merely relate them, required a more sophisticated argument. This was provided by the Neo-Pla-tonic philosophers, whose foremost representative, Marsilio Ficino, enjoyed tremendous prestige during the later years of the fifteenth century and after. Ficino's thought was based as much on the mysticism of Plotinus as on the authentic works of Plato. He believed that the life of the universe, including human life, was linked to God by a spiritual circuit continuously ascending and descending,so that all revelation, whether from the Bible. Plato, or classical myths, was one. Similarly, he proclaimed that beauty, love, and beatitude, being phases of this same circuit, were one. Thus Neo-Platonists could invoke the "celestial Venus" (that is, the nude Venus born of the sea, as in our picture) interchangeably with the Virgin Mary, as the source of "divine love' (meaning the recognition of divine beauty). This celestial Venus, according to Ficino, dwells purely in the sphere of Mind, while her twin, the ordinary Venus, engenders "human love."
Once we understand that Botticelli's picture has this quasi-religious meaning, it seems less astonishing that the two wind gods on the left look so much like angel and that the personification of Spring on the right, who welcomes Venus ashore, recalls the traditional relation of St. John to the Saviour in the Baptism of Christ (compare fig. 431). Aa baptism is a "rebirth in God," so the birth of Venus evokes the hope for "rebirth" from which the Renaissance takes its name. Thanks to the fluidity of Neo-Platonic doctrine, the number of possible associations to be linked with our painting is almost limitless. All of them, however, like the celestial Venus herself, "dwell in the sphere of Mind," and Botticelli's deity would hardly be a fit vessel for them if she were less ethereal.

 

 
 
 
 
The Birth of Venus

This secular work was painted onto canvas, which was a less expensive painting surface than the wooden panels used in church and court pictures. A wooden surface would certainly be impractical for a work on this scale. Canvas is known to have been the preferred material for the paintings of nonreligious and pagan subjects that were sometimes commissioned to decorate country villas in 15th-century Italy.

 

 
 
 
99
 




The Birth of Venus
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence




The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence





The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence




The west wind

Zephyr and Chloris fly with limbs entwined as a twofold entity: the ruddy Zephyr (his name is Greek for "the west wind") is puffing vigorously, while the fair Chloris gently sighs the warm breath that wafts Venus ashore. All around them fall roses -each with a golden heart - which, according to legend, came into being at Venus's birth.

The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



The shell

Botticelli portrays Venus in the very first suggestion of action, with a complex and beautiful series of twists and turns, as she is about to step off her giant gilded scallop shell onto the shore. Venus was conceived when the Titan Cronus castrated his father, the god Uranus - the severed genitals fell into the sea and fertilized it. Here what we see is actually not Venus's birth out of the waves, but the moment when, having been conveyed by the shell, she lands at Paphos in Cyprus.

The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence




The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Wooded shore

The trees form part of a flowering orange grove - corresponding to the sacred garden of the Hesperides in Greek myth - and each small white blossom is tipped with gold. Gold is used throughout the painting, accentuating its role as a precious object and echoing the divine status of Venus. Each dark green leaf has a gold spine and outline, and the tree trunks are highlighted with short diagonal lines of gold.




Nymph

The nymph may well be one of the three Home, or "The Hours," Greek goddesses of the seasons, who were attendants to Venus. Both her lavishly decorated dress and the gorgeous robe she holds out to Venus are embroidered with red and white daisies, yellow primroses, and blue cornflowers - all spring flowers appropriate to the theme of birth. She wears a garland of myrtle - the tree of Venus -
and a sash of pink roses, as worn by the goddess Flora in Botticelli's Primavera.

The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



The Birth of Venus (detail)
c. 1485
Tempera on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 

 
 
 
 
 


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
1490-92
Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

St Augustine in His Cell
1490-92
Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Annunciation
1490-92
Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

St Jerome in Penitence
1490-92
Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Miracle of St Eligius
1490-92
Tempera on panel, 21 x 269 cm (entire predella)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 

 
 
 
 
 

Holy Trinity (Pala della Convertite)
1491-93
Tempera on panel, 215 x192 cm
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London






Holy Trinity (detail)
1491-93
Tempera on panel
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London



Calumny of Apelles
1494-95
Tempera on panel, 62 x 91 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Calumny of Apelles (detail)
1495
Tempera on wood
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



Calumny of Apelles (detail)
1495
Tempera on wood
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



Calumny of Apelles (detail)
1495
Tempera on wood
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 

 
 
 
121
 
 


Lamentation over the Dead Christ
c. 1495
Tempera on panel, 107 x 71 cm
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan



Portrait of Lorenzo di Ser Piero Lorenzi
1490-95
Tempera on panel, 50 x 36,5 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Portrait of Dante
c. 1495
Tempera on canvas, 54,7 x 47,5 cm
Private collection



St Augustine in His Cell
1490-94
Tempera on panel, 41 x 27 cm cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Last Communion of St Jerome
c. 1495
Tempera on panel, 34,5 x 25,4 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes
1495
Tempera on panel, 36,5 x 20 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Crucifixion
c. 1497
Tempera on canvas, 73,5 x 50,8 cm
Fogg Art Museum, Inuversity of Harvard, Cambridge

 

 
 
 
128
 
 

The Story of Virginia
1496-1504
Tempera on panel, 85 x 165 cm
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

The Story of Virginia (detail)
1496-1504
Tempera on panel
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

The Story of Lucretia
1496-1504
Tempera on panel, 83,5 x 180 cm
Isbella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

The Story of Lucretia (detail)
1496-1504
Tempera on panel
Isbella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston



The History of Lucretia (detail)
c. 1504
Tempera and oil on panel
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

The Story of Lucretia (detail)
c. 1504
Tempera and oil on panel
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

 

 
 
 
 


Christ Crowned with Thorns
c. 1500
Tempera on panel, 47,6 x 32,3 cm
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo




Baptism of St Zenobius and His Appointment as Bishop
1500-05
Tempera on panel, 66,5 x 149,5 cm
National Gallery, London

Three Miracles of St Zenobius
1500-05
Tempera on panel, 65 x 139,5 cm
National Gallery, London

Three Miracles of St Zenobius
1500-05
Tempera on panel, 67,3 x 150,5 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Three Miracles of St Zenobius (detail)
1500-05
Tempera on panel
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Last Miracle and the Death of St Zenobius
1500-05
Tempera on panel, 66 x 182 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden



Transfiguration, St Jerome, St Augustine
c. 1500
Tempera on panel, 27,5 x 35,5 cm
Galleria Pallavicini, Rome

 
 
 
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Agony in the Garden
c. 1500
Tempera on panel, 53 x 35 cm
Capilla Real, Granada




The Mystical Nativity
c. 1500
Tempera on canvas, 108,5 x 75 cm
National Gallery, London

The Mystical Nativity (detail)
c. 1500
Tempera on canvas
National Gallery, London

The Mystical Nativity (detail)
c. 1500
Tempera on canvas
National Gallery, London

 

 
 
 
 
 

Illustrations for Dante's "Divine Comedy"

The Abyss of Hell
1480s
Coloured drawing on parchment, 320 x 470 mm
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome

Inferno, Canto XVIII
1480s
Coloured drawing on parchment, 320 x 470 mm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Inferno, Canto XVIII (detail)
1480s
Silverpoint on parchment, completed in pen and ink, coloured with tempera
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Illustration to the Divine Comedy (Inferno)
1480s
Silverpoint on parchment, completed in pen and ink, coloured with tempera
Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome

 

 
 
 

Inferno, Canto XXXI
1480s
Silverpoint on parchment, completed in pen and ink, 320 x 470 mm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Inferno, Canto XXXIV (detail)
1480s
Silverpoint on parchment, completed in pen and ink
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Illustration to the Divine Comedy (Inferno)
1480s
Silverpoint on parchment, completed in pen and ink, coloured with tempera
Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome

Purgatory X
1490s
Drawing on parchment, 320 x 470 mm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Paradise, Canto VI
1490s
Silverpoint on parchment, completed in pen and ink, 320 x 470 mm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Paradise, Canto XXX
1490s
Drawing on parchment, 320 x 470 mm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin


 

 
 
 
 


Study of two standing figures
c. 1475
Metal point on primed paper, white highlights, 165 x 100 mm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille


Three Angels
1475-80
Pen with brown shading on pink prepared paper, 100 x 235 mm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



Allegory of Abundance
1480-85
Pen, brown ink, brown wash over black chalk and pink tinted paper, 317 x 253 mm
British Museum, London

St John the Baptist
1480s
Pen with bistre on pink paper, 360 x 155 mm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Pallas
c. 1490
Pen and bistre over black chalkon a pink ground, 220 x 140 mm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Angel
c. 1490
Chalk, traced with pen, washed and heightened with white, 266 x 165 mm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Adoration of the Child
c. 1495
Pen shaded with brown, white heeightening and pink wash, 161 x 258 mm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 
 
 

 
 
 
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