Florentine early Renaissance painter whose Birth of Venus (c. 1485) and Primavera (1477-78) are often said to epitomize for modern viewers the spirit of the Renaissance. His ecclesiastical commissions included work for all the major churches of Florence and for the Sistine Chapel in Rome. His name is derived from his elder brother Giovanni, a pawnbroker, who was called Il Botticello ("The Little Barrel").
Although he was one of the most individual painters of the Italian Renaissance, Sandro Botticelli remained little known for centuries after his death. Then his work was rediscovered late in the 19th century by a group of artists in England known as the Pre-Raphaelites. His sophisticated understanding of perspective, anatomy, and the Humanist debate of the Medici court never overshadows the sheer poetry of his vision.
Born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi in Florence in 1445, Botticelli was apprenticed to a goldsmith. Later he was a pupil of the painter Fra Filippo Lippi. He spent all his life in Florence except for a visit to Rome in 1481-82. There he painted wall frescoes in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican.
In Florence, Botticelli was a protege of several members of the powerful Medici family. He painted portraits of the family and many religious pictures, including the famous The Adoration of the Magi. The most original of his paintings are those illustrating Greek and Roman legends. 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.
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