Primavera, Mars and Venus, The birth of Venus… So many works that have made Botticelli renowned. In these, he painted several female figures where you can found similarities. Who is hiding behind his brush? Let me tell you about Simonetta Vespucci, a unique and unusual beauty which remains frozen in time.
Why is Sandro Botticelli so famous?
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (1445-1510), known as Sandro Botticelli, was an Italian painter of the early renaissance. Born and died in Florence, Sandro Botticelli’s work embodies the luminous achievements to enriching the Florence heritage. He is most distinguished for his large-scale scenes of Greek mythology. Although his patrons often chose the subjects of his works, Botticelli embodies the Renaissance ideal of the artist free to let his genius define his distinctive style. Called the Magnificient, Lorenzo di Medici encouraged and supported his work. As the rulers of Florence during that time, the Medici were supporters of fine art and they spent as much as they wanted in expensive masterpieces of any kind. At that time, the streets were full of artists, architects, sculptors hoping that the Medicis would commission a piece from them. Botticelli was also summoned to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to work on the decorations for the Sistine Chapel with other renowned painters.
Queen of Beauty
Obsessed with perfection, Boticelli wanted to represent the beauty of God and capture a feminine ideal. The arrival of Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci in Florence inspired his work throughout his life. Simonetta appeared in the Italian city with her young husband – Marco Vespucci. The couple joined the Florence court life, and Simonetta’s beauty became legendary in Florence. It seemed that Giuliano Di Medici (brother of Lorenzo Di Medici) fell in love with her. Giuliano nominated Simonetta as “The Queen of Beauty” after he won a tournament, but it is unlikely that they became lovers. However, Botticelli also succumbed to her charm according to some art historians, including John Ruskin. He started to sketch portraits of her. In the end, she died at the age of 15 years, probably because of tuberculosis. In his artwork, Botticelli kept on creating his female characters inspired by her amazing appearance, immortalizing her alabaster skin and her long Venetian blond hair. The artist would make her eternal as a flower nymph in Primavera (Spring), or as a virginal Venus in The Birth of Venus. These artworks – which reflect Neoplatonic values – were painted about ten years after the girl’s death, but her beauty was well-fixed in the artist’s mind, who painted her by memory.
Together in death
Devoting himself fully to his art, Botticelli did not take a wife. Some rumours claimed he was homosexual. However, there can be found a platonic and romantic love, from a painter to a muse, in the relationship between him and Simonetta Vespucci. According to his wish, Botticelli was buried next to her in Florence’s Church of Ognissanti.