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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 master; • 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 Cupid Venus Flora Zephyr and Chloris, who transforms Mercury into Flora! Three Graces • 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 family. • 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! Sandro Botticelli 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. panel Sandro Botticelli Fortitude. 1470. Tempera on panel The Mystical Nativity. 1500 Tempera on canvas Botticelli’s Women Primavera. Detail. Birth of Venus. Detail. Venus and the Three Graces. Detail. Detail. Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci. Detail. Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) • brother-in-law to Giovanni Bellini; • 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 engraving. Bacchanal with a wine vat. c1475, St. Sebastian.1456-59 engraving. Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) •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 1944; • 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; his Andrea Mantegna The Dead Christ, c. 1490. Tempera on canvas • drastic use of foreshortenting to create pathos in the body of Christ; • highlights the stigmata; • illustrates the highly sculptural quality of Renaissance painting Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516) • came from a family of painters in Venice; • revolutionized Venetian painting, moving it towards a more sensuous and colouristic style; • taught Titian and Giorgionne; • his sister was married to Mantegna; • 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 panel Bellini, The Feast of the Gods. 1514. Oil on canvas • Bellini’s most important contribution to art lies in his experimentation with the use of color and atmosphere in oil painting; • this is one of his few mythological paintings; • he repeatedly corrected it, and it was eventually partially painted over by Titian; • 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. Where to look for information: • www.artchive.com • www.ibiblio.org • www.artcyclopedia.com • www.wga.hu
"J Early Italian Painting"