Painter/Artist: Botticelli

Florentine School. Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli, pupil of Filippo Lippi; influenced by Pollaiuolo.

LONDON, NATIONAL GALLERY

THE VIRGIN AND CHILD. A Tondo. The Virgin, half length, stands facing us, suckling the “Child who lies in her arms. She is richly dressed in gold brocade, with a hood and veil. On the left is the boy St. John with head bent and hands joined. On the right, slightly behind the Mother, an angel stands gazing at her, holding a drapery to his breast.

Typical as this picture is of the popular idea of what ” a Botticelli ” ought to be, its attribution to him is, nevertheless, questioned. Purchased from Professor Bianconi at Bologna in 1855.

THE ADORATION OF THE KINGS. The Virgin is seated in profile, on the right, between the square pillars of a ruined building. The Child, seated on her lap, raises His hand in blessing as Caspar kneels to kiss His foot. St. Joseph leans against the pillar nearest to us, and on the extreme right are two shepherds with bagpipes and horn. In the centre are the other Kings and their counsellors, courtiers, and pages, while on the left their splendid retinues stream into the picture through a rocky defile.

This picture was formerly attributed to Filippino Lippi, but is now universally recognised as one of Botticelli’s earliest works.

Purchased at Florence from the Lombardi-Baldi Collection in 1857.

MARS AND VENUS. A panel, probably painted for some piece of furniture. Venus, in a white gown, reclines on the left, looking across at Mars, who lies on the right, scarcely draped, asleep. Beyond are three little fauns; the foremost blows a conch in Mars’ ear; the other two hold his lance, the head of the hindmost being enveloped in his helmet. A fourth is crawling out of Mars’ armour.

Purchased from the collection of Mr. A. Barker in 1874.

THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI A Tondo. In the centre, before a high ruined building, the Virgin is seated with the Child on her knee, St. Joseph behind her, and the Kings to the left. Right and left are crowds of onlookers ranged in two ranks. To the right is a large peacock on a broken pillar. Most conspicuous of the varied throng are five horses to the left, a lad near the centre looking at us over his shoulder, a horse facing straight into the picture towards the right, and on the right six horses crowded together and mounted heralds blowing horns.

Formerly catalogued as by Filippino Lippi, but now recognised as a very early work of Botticelli.

Purchased from the collection of Mr. W. Fuller Maitland in 1878.

THE NATIVITY In the centre is a thatched pent-house in front of an opening through a rock, under which the Child reclines on the ground against a pack-saddle, looking up at the Virgin, who kneels (in profile to left) adoring Him. St. Joseph is crouched behind Him. Beyond are the ox and the ass feeding from a wicker crib; on the left are three young men kneeling and an angel, and on the right shepherds and an angel. Three angels kneel on the thatch singing from a book held by the central one. In the foreground three long-robed youths crowned with myrtle embrace three angels, while demons seek to hide themselves in crevices in the rocks. High above the heavens open in a golden glory, and a choir of twelve singing angels hand in hand wheel round, bearing olive branches and scrolls with crowns hanging from them. Above the picture is a long inscription in Greek to the following effect: ” I, Sandro, painted this picture m the year 1500 during the troubles of Italy, in the half-year after the first year of the three and a half years of the loosing of the devil, in accordance with the fulfilment of the eleventh chapter of St. John in the second woe of the Apocalypse; then he shall be chained, according to the twelfth chapter, and we shall see him trodden down as in this picture.”

Brought to England in 1798 by W. Young Ottley, being the first of Botticelli’s works to leave Italy.

Purchased from Mr. W. Fuller Maitland’s Collection in 1878.

CHANTILLY

THE BIRTH OF VENUS. In the centre foreground, facing us, standing, in a large scallop shell which floats on a calm sea, is Venus, her right hand on her breast and her left extended downwards holding to her body a small fold of drapery, which is her only clothing. Her long hair is blown towards the right, where, under trees on the low shore, stands, in profile, a girl in a loose flowered garment, representing Spring. She is leaning forward towards Venus with her right arm extended upwards and her left forward holding a flowered purple cloak ready for her. On the left two nearly nude figures representing Winds fly in the sky and blow Venus towards the shore.

Painted for the villa of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, but somewhat later than the Prisnavera.

JUDITH. A very young Judith, in long flowing draperies of pale purple, advancing towards the right, with a sword in her right hand-held horizontally across her body-and an olive branch in the left. Her head is turned round towards our left, where follows a maidservant in somewhat plainer draperies of yellow, with the head of Holofernes, tied up in a white cloth in a basket, supported on her head with her left hand, while her right clutches her dress. In the right foreground is a cypress tree, and the landscape across which the figures advance slopes downwards to a valley (with mountains beyond) in which are seen troops of horsemen swarming out of the gate of the city of Bethulia on the right.

HOLOFERNES FOUND DEAD IN HIS TENT. Same size A companion picture to the last, and formerly framed with it. The headless trunk of IIolofernes lies nude on a low couch across the fore ground. Eight Assyrian captains stand behind it in various attitudes of horror and pity, and a ninth near the door of the tent is on horseback. Probably painted shortly after 1470,

PORTRAIT OF A MAN HOLDING A MEDAL. Bust length, slightly to left the medal held up at the breast by the rim with both hands. He is in a black cloak edged and tied with green cord, and a red biretta. He is a young man, clean shaven, with thick reddish brown hair falling on his shoulders. Landscape background with a broad river in the centre.

Formerly called portrait of Pico della Mirandola, but probably of Giovanni, son of Coslmo de’ Medici and patron of Fra Filippo Lippi. Catalogued as “Portrait of Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici holding a medal, with a portrait of Cosimo the elder.”

CALUMNY Along the right wall of a portico elaborately decorated with sculpture, and opening at the back through three lofty arches, is a marble dais on which a judge, with ass’s ears, is enthroned between two standing figures symbolical of Ignorance and Suspicion. He leans forward with his right hand outstretched towards the central group, composed of the victim-a young man-who is being dragged naked along the floor by the hair by Calumny, attended by Hypocrisy and Deceit and False Witness. To the left of these stands Remorse (an old woman in a black mantle), and behind her on the extreme left Truth, nude, invoking Heaven with uplifted eyes and hand.

The subject is derived from Lucian’s description of a picture by Apelles.

THE MADONNA OF THE MAGNIFICAT. A Tondo. On the right the Virgin, seen at half length, is seated in a chair, turned half to left, with the Child on her lap. Her left hand supports Him, and her right is extended, with a pen in it, which she dips in an inkpot, the wrist resting on an open book in which we can read the opening sentence of the Magnifical. This book and the ink-pot are supported by two children kneeling side by side, with another bending over them with a hand on the shoulder of each; while behind, from the extreme left and right, two more extend a hand to hold a crown over the Virgin’s head. Though usually called ” angels,” these children are wingless, are clothed as mortals, and are sweetly human. Between these figures a glimpse of landscape background, with a river, is seen in the centre.

A repetition of this subject, with slight variations, at the Louvre (No. 1295) is held to be a school copy only.

Another famous “Tondo” is in the Ambrosiana at Milan (No. 145), The Madonna with Three Angels. Two more at Berlin are not now allowed as Botticelli’s.

THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI High up in the centre the Virgin is seated, facing us, on an outlying block of a ruined wall which rises to the top of the picture on the right. Her head and body are turned slightly to our left as she holds out the Child towards the aged Caspar, who kneels in profile to kiss His foot. Behind, between the Virgin and Caspar, stands St. Joseph, his right elbow leaning on the rocks, which rise to the roof of a wooden pent-house supported by the wall on our right and two tree-trunks on our left. In the centre foreground, below the Virgin, kneels Melchior, his back to us, but his head turned in profile to right towards Balthasaz, who kneels beside him. On either side are grouped numerous standing figures, several of which, as well as the Magi, are known to be portraits. Caspar, namely, is Cosimo de’ Medici the elder; Melchior Piero, and Balthasar (probably) Giovanni, his two sons; while the standing figure in a long robe on the extreme right, looking at us, is the painter himself.

Painted for the Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, probably in 1477.

THE TONDO OF THE POMEGRANATE The Virgin, three-quarter length, seated facing us, her knees apart, the Child reclining in her two hands m her lap. His right hand is raised in benediction, His left resting on a pomegranate which His mother holds in her left. On either side of the Virgin stand three young angels. The two outer ones, seen to the knee, hold lily-wands and are girdled with roses. The two next to them have open books. Of the remaining pair only the heads are seen over the shoulders of the Virgin. Her head leans to the right, and her eyes look downwards wistfully.

THE ANNUNCIATION. The Virgin kneeling at a prie-dieu on the right, in a room, turns towards the left to Gabriel, who bends before her with a lily in his hand.

Painted in 1490 for the Convent of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi; probably by a pupil, from the master’s design.

FLORENCE, PITTI

LA BELLA SIMONETTA. Nearly half length, in profile to left. In a plain brown dress and tightfitting white cap.

School of Botticelli. Not a portrait of Simonetta.

THE MADONNA OF THE ROSE BUSH. The Virgin in a heavy robe stands full length fronting us with her head bent over to our right, holding the Child with His head and body also bent to the right, as the little St. John, standing beside, reaches up and throws his arms round His neck. The eyes of both mother and Child are closed. In the background to the left is a rose bush.

School of Botticelli.

FLORENCE, ACADEMY

THE CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN In the upper part, in a circle of cherubim and angels scattering flowers, the Virgin, turned slightly to the right, is being crowned by the Creator. She is in a red robe, a grey mantle lined with green, and white veil. In the lower part, in the foreground of a flat landscape, stand facing us St. John the Evangelist (on the left), St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Eloi: St. John has an open book in his right hand and his left is upraised. St. Augustine, in mitre and cope, holds a book in which he is writing. St. Jerome, in Cardinal’s hat and robe, looks upward with his right hand on his breast. St. Eloi, in mitre and cope, raises his right hand in benediction and with his left supports his crozier.

Painted in 1490 for the altar of the Chapel of the Silk-Weavers in the Church of San Marco.

PRIMAVERA An allegory of Spring, the precise significance of which is unknown. Against a dense background of crange trees laden with fruit, upon a veritable carpet of grass and flowers, are ranged seven full-length figures, all of them more or less draped. In the centre is Venus fronting us, in a thin robe and a mantle held below her waist with her left hand and passing over her right arm, which is uplifted. Over her head Cupid is flying and shooting an arrow to the left. On either side of her, and slightly nearer to us, is a group of three figures. On our right Flora, a tall) erect nymph in flowing flowered garments, is advancing towards the left, but fronting us, and at her left side (farther to our right) is a stooping female figure, Zephyr, very thinly draped, also advancing, her head turned up over her left shoulder at a third figure, Spring, winged, who is bending over her with outstretched arms. On our left are three thinly clad girls (the Graces) dancing in a round with joined hands, and on the extreme left a youth (Mercury), clad only in a mantle and a hat, stands with his left hand on his hip and his right extended upwards plucking fruit.

Painted for Lozenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, probably in 1478.

BERLIN

THE MADONNA AND SAINTS A square picture of the Virgin seated with the Child on her lap between St. John the Baptist (left) and St. John the Evangelist, who stand fronting us on the marble ledge of a terrace. The seat on which the Virgin sits is set on a stone base in the back wall of this terrace, and behind are three arched alcoves of dense foliage, making a background for the three heads, between which on either arm of the seat stands a tall lily-pot. Along the terrace are various inscriptions relating to the varied foliage-palm, cypress, plane, etc. -from a passage in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Ecclesiasticus.

This and the single figure of St. Sebastian (No. 1128) are the only two out of the eight pictures officially ascribed to Botticelli in the Berlin Catalogue which are now held to be from his own hand.

Painted in 1485 for the Chapel of the Bardi in the Basilica of Santo Spirito at Florence.

“One of the most splendid works of Botticelli.”(H. P. Horne.)