In 1481, Pope Sixtus IV summoned Botticelli and other prominent Florentine and Umbrian artists to fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel. The iconological program was the supremacy of the Papacy. Sandro's contribution included the Temptations of Christ, the Punishment of the Rebels and Trial of Moses. He returned to Florence, and "being of a sophistical turn of mind, he there wrote a commentary on a portion of Dante and illustrated the Inferno which he printed, spending much time over it, and this abstention from work led to serious disorders in his living." Thus Vasari characterized the first printed Dante (1481) with Botticelli's decorations; he could not imagine that the new art of printing might occupy an artist.
PLATE I.—THE BIRTH OF VENUS. From the tempera on canvas in the Uffizi. (Frontispiece)
This picture is generally regarded as the supreme achievement of Botticelli's genius. It was probably painted about 1485, after his return from Rome.
The canvas measures 5 ft 8 in. by 9 ft 1 in., so that the figures are nearly life size. No reproduction can do justice to the exquisite delicacy of expression in the original. Something of the same quality will be found in the "Mars and Venus" in the National Gallery, which was probably painted about the same time. The two figures on the left are usually described as Zephyrus and Zephyritis, representing the south and south-west winds: that on the right may be one of the Hours of Homer's Hymn, or possibly the Spring.
About the Author
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli (Italian: [ˈsandro bottiˈtʃɛlli]; c. 1445 – May 17, 1510), was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. He belonged to the Florentine school under the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici, a movement that Giorgio Vasari would characterize less than a hundred years later as a "golden age", a thought, suitably enough, he expressed at the head of his Vita of Botticelli. Botticelli's posthumous reputation suffered until the late 19th century; since then his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting. Among his best known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera.
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