Studying Botticelli: Florentine artist


Renaissance Master Alessandro Botticelli is regarded as the best Florentine school artist of his time (1445-1510).

An intelligent boy, Botticelli had a quick wit and was bored at school. As a result, he did not have a lengthy formal education. It was recognized early on that Botticelli needed something more to keep him interested in learning.

Botticelli became an apprentice to a local Florentine goldsmith before studying painting under several artists. He must have been an excellent apprentice because by the time he was 25, he had his own workshop.

Best-known works are in Florence

I have seen some of Botticelli’s work in person.

The Sistine Chapel in Rome is testament to Botticelli’s artistic talent. "The Life of Moses" and "The Temptation of Christ" are his contributions to this most treasured room.

While in Florence on a second trip to Italy, I saw Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" at the Uffizi Gallery. It is the one painting that took my breath away. Seeing the painting in person is much different than seeing it in books or online.

Birth of Venus

The later years

Botticelli was well regarded as an artist during most of his life. However, he lost his good reputation in later years.

Was it because of his involvement with the religious fanatic Savonarola? Or was it because his later paintings became dark and foreboding? No one knows for sure.

Whatever the case may be, Botticelli was a different man at the end of his life. Poor, depressed, isolated, his good name tarnished, he was relegated to the shadows until centuries later, when his work was esteemed again, and he was known once more as a Master of the Renaissance.

His style and my painting

 For this third assignment, (see second and first assignment here) I chose to focus on another painting I saw in the Uffizi, "Pallas and the Centaur".

Since I don’t have encaustics (heated coloured wax) as in the lesson, I selected pastel paper and pencils as well as pan pastels to paint Pallas.

Botticelli's Pallas and the Centaur

In "Pallas and the Centaur" (1485), Botticelli was searching for the ideal human figure.

His nudes in the series of mythical works of art are thought to be the “most sensuously beautiful nudes and semi-nudes painted during the Renaissance.” (Britannica). "Pallas and the Centaur" expresses the power of love over lust.

My version of Pallas by Botticelli
My version of Pallas

In my version of Pallas, as in the original, there is very little colour in the flesh; however, as this is a later painting, Botticelli did use more ochre to warm up the flesh tones than in his earlier works. Having no ochre in my pastel sets, I improvised with other colours. I was mostly concerned with replicating the shape of the cheekbones and the roundness of the forehead. I wanted to maintain the pale hues of the skin. Sorry Alessandro, but a touch of red on the lips is always a classy look. 

I tried to imitate the flowing lines in the hair, and create the mood with the intent gaze to the side as Pallas is focused on the Centaur.

Which of three Renaissance artists is your favourite?

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