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J Early Italian Painting


									J: Early Italian Painting
Key Artists: Sandro Botticelli   Andrea Mantegna
             Giovanni Bellini
    Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)
• born Alessandro Filipepi, in Florence, he was the
youngest of five children; as a youth he was
nicknamed “Botticelli” or “little barrel”;
• first trained as a goldsmith and later switched his
focus to painting and became an apprentice to the
Late Gothic painter Fra Filippo Lippi; his style is
similar in colour and decorative style to that of his
• Botticelli’s paintings are remarkable for the gentle
                                                         Alleged self-portrait
expressions and gestures of his subjects; they have
                                                         of Botticelli, in his
a very distinct style and are easy to recognize;;
                                                         Adoration of the
• establishing his own studio, with many apprentices,    Magi.
allowed him to produce vast amounts of
commissioned work;
• Early in his career he was a favourite of the Medici’s and his subject
  matter was often dictated by their interests and ideals; they are often
  featured subjects in his work;
• This relationship with the Medicis led to an inclusion of Neo-
  Platonism in his work;
• Neo-Platonism meant that he would bring together in one painting
  ideas that belong to both Christianity and pagan ideas which may
  have included mythology; one theme that Botticelli used over and
  over again was the idea of a very sad young girl that was detached
  from what was going on around her; in a figure like Venus she
  suddenly becomes a shy, virginal girl (akin to the Virgin Mary) rather
  than a sexy, temptress;
• Botticelli broke new ground with his large scale mythological scenes;
• And since the younger generation of Medici’s dictated that art no
  longer need be strictly religious in nature… Botticelli’s work was in
  absolute contradiction to the tradition of years before; this would
  prove to torment Botticelli as he turned to religious extremism later
  in life;
• at the time he was one of the only artists willing to tackle the most
  difficult commissions and although he was paid handsomely for
  them he would die in relative poverty;
    Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus. c. 1485. Tempera on canvas.

•   The bodies are not realistic because there is no attempt to model solid-looking figures; they float
    against a decorative background defined by outlines and decorative details like the artificial
    textured “v” on the water;
•   Also, there is no sense of rational space with the absence of linear or aerial perspective;
•   However, there is Botticelli’s graceful, aesthetic style;
•   At the centre, the mythological figure of Venus, the goddess of love, arrives on the island of
    Cyprus (the oranges in the background refer again to the fact that this painting was commissioned
    by the Medici family);
•   On the left of the picture, the wind god Zephyr and his wife Flora, help blow Venus to shore;
•   On the right, Hora the goddess of summer welcomes Venus;
•   The myth of Venus’ birth is that tired of Zeus’ philandering, Hera ordered her son, Saturn, to cut
    off Zeus’ genitals and throw them into the sea. The sea foam produced Venus, the goddess of
    love. Love triumphs over all.
            Sandro Botticelli, Primavera. c. 1482. Tempera on wood

                                                                  Venus        Flora                Zephyr
                                                                                                    into Flora!


•   the central theme of the Primavera is one of love and marriage and preaches that when done in
    the right order, will bring forth sensuality and fertility;
•   this painting, the largest mythological painting in the Early Renaissance, was commissioned by
    the Medici family. The painting was hung in the bedroom of a bride to a member of the Medici
•   the painting is set in a meadow complete with flowers and trees. It shows nine figures, all based
    on a mythological text: Mercury, Cupid, Venus, the Three Graces(chastity, beauty, love),
    Flora/Chloris and Zephyr
•   Cupid (known for his lack of morality and his attempts to take apart marriages)
•   the myrtle plants represent sensuality; the orange groves of fertility and the Medici family,
• Botticelli’s style would evolve as he matured; he became a follower
  of the monk Savonarola;
• In the 1490’s. Savonarola was a preacher who wanted his followers
  to embrace a simple Christianity and spoke against the corruption of
  the church; Savonarola stressed giving up worldly things and spoke
  out against the art of the day;
• Savonarola would lead the city of Florence in the Bonfire of the
  Vanities where citizens would burn any objectionable items…
  Botticelli’s own paintings included;
• When Savonarola was burned at the centre of Florence, Botticelli
  stayed on but he struggled with his role as a painter; his work had
  become increasingly religious and angst ridden;
• When he died at the age of 65, his mastery had been eclipsed by
  the rising popularity of the High Renaissance Masters –
  Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael- and he was largely forgotten
  about until recent decades!

                 Venus and Mars. 1483. Tempera on panel.

                                        Adoration of
The Madonna of                          the Magi, c.
the Magnificat                          1475-1476.
c. 1480-81                              Tempera on
Tempera on                              panel.
 Sandro Botticelli

                               on panel

The Mystical Nativity. 1500
Tempera on canvas
                     Botticelli’s Women

Primavera. Detail.
                     Birth of Venus. Detail.

                                                         Venus and the Three
                                                         Graces. Detail.


                                Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci.
Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506)
• brother-in-law to Giovanni
• an inspirational Venetian artist
  known for experimenting with
  perspective (he would shift the
  horizon line to increase
  monumentality of a moment);

  Mantegna also
  experimented in
  Bacchanal with a
  wine vat. c1475,                   St. Sebastian.1456-59
                                                   Andrea Mantegna
                                                  •this painting was part of a cycle
                                                  illustrating the life of St. James in
                                                  the Ovateri Chapel in Padua, it
                                                  was bombed by Allied forces in
                                                  • uses a dramatic worm’s eye
                                                  view to heighten the drama;
                                                  • called St. James the Just or the
                                                  Lesser, he was the first Bishop
                                                  of Jersusalem;
                                                  •he was a blood relative of Jesus
                                                  and witnessed the Resurrection;
                                                • martyred c.62 at Jerusalem by
                                                being thrown from a pinnacle of
                                                the Temple, then stoned and
                                                beaten with clubs, including
St James Led to his Execution. c. 1455. Fresco. fuller's mallets, while praying for
Destroyed, formerly church of the Eremitani, Padua attackers;
Andrea Mantegna The Dead Christ, c. 1490.

           Tempera on canvas

                                • drastic use of
                                foreshortenting to
                                create pathos in the
                                body of Christ;
                                • highlights the
                                • illustrates the highly
                                sculptural quality of
                                Renaissance painting
        Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516)
• came from a family of painters in
• revolutionized Venetian painting,
moving it towards a more sensuous
and colouristic style;
• taught Titian and Giorgionne;
• his sister was married to
• portrays St. Francis the patron
saint of ecology and animals, as he
receives the stigmata;
• originally a knight and
businessman, he gave it all away to
start the Franciscan brotherhood;
monks who live in poverty and
preach the word of God;
• in this painting, Bellini makes use
of religious symbolism through
natural elements; donkey =
patience and humility, skull = death.
                                        St. Francis in Ecstasy, c. 1480 Tempera and oil on
Bellini, The Feast of the
Gods. 1514. Oil on
• Bellini’s most important contribution
to art lies in his experimentation with
the use of color and atmosphere in oil
• this is one of his few mythological
• he repeatedly corrected it, and it was
eventually partially painted over by
• the painting depicts two episodes
from Ovid; on the left, Priapus is
attempting to seduce a sleeping
nymph but is prevented by the braying
donkey; the drunken Gods are
recognizeable for their iconography:
Jupiter has an eagle next to
him,Poseidon is caressing Cybele and
Ceres, while Hermes is languidly lying
on a barrel. The boy with vine-leaves
on his head is an unusually young
depiction of Bacchus.
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