Portrait of Dante Sandro Botticelli Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Portrait of Dante is a lesser known portrait from the career of Sandro Botticelli. It was produced in around 1495 and in recent years has remained within a private collection in Switzerland.

The Italian title of this piece was Ritratto di Dante Alighieri, with Ritratto meaning portrait, and Dante Alighieri being the longer name of the famous poet. This piece is fairly small, at around half a metre in height and width. The content was put together using tempera, which is derived from eggs and was the main method of painting during the Italian Renaissance, particularly the earlier periods. Later on there would be influence from North Europeans such as Jan van Eyck who used oils instead and slowly this would replace tempera for most artists. Botticelli himself produced a large number of side profile portraits during his career and there was a particularly large number during the 1490s. Quite possibly, patrons may have seen others of that time and requested similar for their own projects, though not all of the side profiles were commissioned, with some being for personal exploration and enjoyment.

Botticelli chooses to make use of a white, plain background for this painting. The poet is smartly dressed with a serious expression on his face. The artist had only respect for the poet and would make use of his poetry for a series of drawings which became one of the highlight's of Botticelli's career, even though he remains most famous for his tempera paintings. The portrait in front of us here has been omitted from some surveys of the artist's career which may be down to the authors not knowing enough about the piece, or that they actually question its authenticity. We are unsure about the particular answer to that, but we can confirm that this portrait is not one of the more famous artworks that he produced. Its inclusion of Dante, however, makes it particularly interesting due to the role that Dante played in providing inspiration to the artist.

The artist was a highly gifted portrait painter and tackled different formats including the side profile as found here, plus a number of shoulder-length straight-on artworks. There would also be full length figurative pieces in which figures would be placed within complex arrangements, with those normally much larger in size. Two of the most famous examples of those include The Birth of Venus and Primavera, with them becoming two of the most recognisable contributions to the Early Renaissance. Even the most occasional art fan will have seen these paintings at some point, even if they are not aware of their names or that it was from Botticelli's career. He was also a highly talented draughtsman which provided fundamental skills that would lie behind his work in other mediums.