Sandro Botticelli was one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance. Born in Florence in March of 1445 in the area of Via del Porcellana and died in Florence in 1510. He trained in the workshop of Filippo Lippi with whom he worked in Prato in the frescoes of the main chapel of the Duomo. When Filippo Lippi moved to Spoleto the Botticelli frequented the shops of Antonio del Pollaiolo and of Andrea del Verrocchio.
The continuous search for absolute beauty beyond time and space, the exaltation of grace as intellectual elegance made him approach the philosophy of the Neoplatonic Academy founded by the Medici family in 1462 and animated by Marsilio Ficino and Agnolo Poliziano who re-evaluated the ancient culture inspired by Plato and the humanist movement but also by the Christian religion. Man had a privileged place in the world because through reason he could reach the contemplation of the divine.
Even through the contemplation of beauty and through love, man could rise from the lower realm of matter to the higher realm of the spirit.
It is in this vision that we would like to dwell on two of the most famous paintings by Botticelli now kept at the Uffizi Museum in Florence: the Birth of Venus and the allegory of Spring, which thanks to Vasari’s testimony in the “Lives” we know were in Villa Medicea di Castello in 1550 and were probably painted by the painter from 1477 to 1485 although with different techniques.
The mythological characters of Spring imply various theories of the Neoplatonic Academy, the carnal love that triggers change in nature and is then sublimated under the gaze of Venus and Eros in something better and more perfect, the Graces.
In the Birth of Venus the arrival of Venus is represented after its birth from the sea foam pushed by the winds Zephyrus and Aura. The goddess is welcomed by one of the nymphs who represent the Hours, goddesses of the order and of the seasons who are offering her a rich cloak adorned with flowers.
Beyond the novelty with which the figures stand out with liveliness and immediacy from the background of the two paintings and the meticulous care of the details in the myriad of flowers and plants described, the search for a new perspective vision of the figures in the space.
But it is in the choice of the subject the true message that the great artist wants to pass on to us. In the Neoplatonic philosophy of Marsilio Ficino the figure of Venus is one of the fundamental elements: it is the Venus of the Rooms of the Poliziano that is at the origin of the spiritual growth of those who know how to dominate their passions, and through love can to reach God, since love is the foundation of the cosmos, “love that moves the sun and other stars” (Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy chanting XXXIII).
The Venus of the Olympian Pagan and love are therefore totally reinterpreted and the greatness of Botticelli lies in having depicted and handed down this feeling to us.
The choice of the one who was to interpret this absolute change, and to push the soul in search of Love could not be casual.
To act as an inspirational muse and thus to represent the celestial Venus symbol of purity, simplicity and beauty, Botticelli forever, chooses “La Sans Par”, the unparalleled, Simonetta Vespucci, wife of Marco of the noble Vespucci family, cousin of Amerigo , the great Florentine navigator, so named by Agnolo Poliziano in his “Stanze per la Giostra” written for the triumph of Giuliano de Medici, brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who loved Simonetta and won the knightly tournament that took place in Piazza Santa Croce in 1475, poem in octave started and never ended due to the death of Giuliano and the wounding of Lorenzo during the Pgi Conspiracy in April 1478.
Internal view of the church of Ognissanti
Botticelli died later in 1510 but at his death he left written that he was buried at Simonetta’s feet in the church of Ognissanti.
In fact, his tomb is in a side chapel of the church, but Simonetta’s is no longer there.
It seems that during the last flood of the Arno the tomb of this woman, symbol of grace and beauty and humanistic ideal of Love in the Florentine Renaissance, vanished into thin air, perhaps taken from the waters from which she came as a heavenly Venus immortal symbol of Love.
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi was the real name of Sandro Botticelli