Botticelli has dressed the Madonna in a traditional red gown and blue cloak, and she exudes nobility with her long pale neck and finely arched eyebrows. Beautiful detailing can be seen on the sleeves of her gown and on her headdress.
The stunning blue of the Madonna's cloak is echoed in the architecture framing the landscape behind her and the child. Botticelli combined strong, flowing lines with a robustness of form to create solid figures that stood independently of the background. Looking at this work it is clear to see how his paintings influenced the Pre-Raphaelite movement several centuries later.
Initially, the young Botticelli was apprenticed to a goldsmith, possibly his brother. But, his love of painting resulted in his father moving him to the tutelage of the highly respected artist, Fra Fillipo Lippi. Later Botticelli was to become master to Lippi's son, Filippino. To learn the trade apprentices regularly finished their master's work. However, Botticelli turned convention on its head by helping his apprentice finish his painting instead.
Botticelli was a recognised star of his time and spent much of his life working for the Medici family and their large and influential group of friends. They commissioned many works from him, including the Birth of Venus, 1485, which are now recognised as masterpieces.
Throughout his childhood and adult life, Botticelli was known as having a quick wit and being full of life and vigour. But as political and religious upheaval hit Italy and his patrons, the Medici family, fell out of favour, Botticelli became withdrawn and isolated and his painting style changed.
He became involved with the Dominican priest, Girolamo Savonarola, who inspired a mass Bonfire of the Vanities in 1497.
Thousands of books and works of art were publicly burned. It is possible that Botticelli threw some of his own "pagan" themed paintings into the flames.
Botticelli never married. Stories abound that he was in love with an unobtainable figure, a married noblewoman declared to be the greatest beauty of the time. The Florentine poet Politian, declared that “like Venus”, Simonetta Vespucci “was born among the waves.” Despite dying young, 9 years before Botticelli painted The Birth of Venus, it is thought that she was the inspiration for the iconic image.
This same idealised female figure appears in many of his paintings, including as Venus in Primavera, and in several Madonna paintings. Whatever the truth of the matter, Botticelli's feelings for la bella Simonetta were strong enough for him to request a burial at her feet upon his own demise. At his death in 1510 these wishes were fulfilled.
Examples of Botticelli's work can be found in major collections and galleries across the world, including The National Gallery, London, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Uffizi, Florence and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Many private collectors also own examples of his work.
Florence based Italian Renaissance painter, Sandro Botticelli was an important figure in the retrospectively labelled Golden Age. Born Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, circa 1445, Botticelli was originally a nickname. Deriving from the word botticello, meaning small wine cask or little barrel, the name stuck and he became known as Sandro Botticelli.
During his lifetime, Botticelli painted secular and mythological images, along with religious scenes. In 1481, he was called to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to create frescoes for the walls of the Sistine Chapel, and Botticelli's Florentine workshop produced many works portraying the Madonna and Child.