A short story of how an extraordinary family rescued this glorious painting.
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My name is Strom Scherie.
I was a museum docent for twelve years.
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The Birth of Venus You may, Love it!

SANDRO BOTTICELLI, THE BIRTH OF VENUS
UFFIZI GALLERY, FLORENCE, ITALY
(Circa, 1485)
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Before we explore Botticelli’s painting of The Birth of Venus, you must become acquainted with life during the Early Renaissance era and the intriguing characters in its rich history. What awaits is how this adored painting survived a suspense-filled event that rocked Florence to its core—in the late 15th Century.

The word Renaissance is French for rebirth.
Italian, Renaissance (15th - 16th Century)
Early Renaissance marked the transition from the Middle Ages
and reached its heights in the 15th century.

“Early Renaissance officially began in Florence, Italy after the unexpected fall of the Greek and Roman Empires and 10 Medieval centuries called the “Dark Ages.” for a ground-breaking reason. Drum roll please. Classical texts and artifacts from Ancient Greece and Rome, suddenly, were rediscovered.

The culture starts to focus on noble ideals to advance society. I.E. Humanism, the dignity of human beings, engineering, mathematics, medicine, architecture, literature, and the arts flourish.

Consider History & Culture in Florence—and how, Master painters earned a living. For instance, Botticelli’s commissions from, Lorenzo Medici—patron of artists, were continuous. Early Italian Renaissance art launched careers of many artists because the Vatican in Rome needed them.

MEET THE MEDICI

MED-itch-i
The Italian pronunciation
emphasizes the first syllable.

Their true story brought alive
the history of Florence at
its most dramatic period, when
assassination attempts on two
Medici brothers occurred,
during Easter mass.

Guiliano, the younger brother,
was murdered. Lorenzo defended
himself. Fortunately, he managed
to escape with a small wound.

The rival Pazzi family’s plot
failed to defeat the Medici, which
then led directly to a two-year war.
That was nearly disastrous for Florence.

YOUNG COSIMO

When Cosimo was 27, he married Contessina de Bardi. Her family were aristocrats,unlike the Medici, who had been proud Tuscan peasants from humble beginnings. By coordinating political activity with financial interests, they became the leading Florentine business house.

Marriage into the Bardi family had provided her husband’s family with prestige, nobility, and military support, in Florence. The building the Bardi’s lived in was known as a palace. Their castle and a fortress, is in Parma, Italy, 115 miles, today. But—much longer—in the 15th century.

The House of Bardi

Located in Florence’s business district, once upon a time, the upper-levels
had been the Medici family’s living-quarters. Just imagine being bundled
up on a winter’s day, in a spectacular horse-drawn carriage.

COSIMO IS THE FIRST
TO LIVE IN THIS PALACE

When young Cosimo’s father had died, he inherited the name of Cosimo the Elder. Then he received the title, Duke of Florence, following the previous Duke’s assassination. Much, later, Cosimo became Grand Duke of Tuscany, in this beautiful region located in central Italy, known for its sense of culture.

During the 15th century, Italy had been divided into city-states ruled by dictators—Florence had been a Republic with a constitution. Political power rested in the hands of middle-class merchants—a few wealthy families—and art patrons. Later, they and the powerful guilds, ruled Florence.

Cosimo the Elder spearheaded the largest—most respected bank in Europe. Their system—tracked transactions, totaled them monthly—and at the endof the accounting period—produced financial statements. After London, and Istanbul, Florence was the third-largest city, in Europe.

Then, Italy was divided into many city-states, each with its own government. Some were ruled by bullies’ and others were republics. Cosimo traveled by sea and caravans from Florence to his branches in Milan and Venice and trips to Popes at the Vatican in Rome.

OLD MAP OF VENICE, MILAN, FLORENCE, AND ROME

Cosimo the Elder had to travel to his prosperous branches. We can assume that he and his entourage were vulnerable to bandits, in their carriages and on horseback—Along the way they overnighted in the safety of inns. Boats had to have been available, if by sea and river routes. At home, their loved ones suffered. Rome would have been 180 Miles or 290 Kilometers over several days from Florence.

MEDICI & THEIR PATRONAGE

PROCESSION OF THE MAGI
BENOZZO GOZZOLI, ARTIST

Procession of the Magi was a Hollywood-style display—not a spiritual pilgrimage! To please his patron, Gozzoli surrounded himself with 3 kings: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar—visible in the upper-left corner. All that mattered was showing-off the family’s growing empire, to impress competitors.

Observe elaborate details: Lifestyle. Fashion. Exotica. Contemporaries.

Gozzoli’s fresco painting of The Procession of the Magi was supposed to hang in the Medici family’s palace. 3 walls—accommodated only one—king—in each. Portraits you see are of family, friends, business associates, in banking—money lending—cloth—and silk manufacturing.

Parades like this one were organized by eager guild managers. Services of all kinds sprung -up, from crafts and tradespeople to textiles, glass blowing and shipbuilding. Overseers limited membership, to prevent flooding markets, and causing prices of Products to drop.

MEET BOTTICELLI & LORENZO MEDICI

SANDRO

Young Botticelli blossoms under Filippo Lippi, a Florentine Master and Renaissance personality whose life and art shift between religion and passion for this world. Years later Botticelli returns to Florence. Sadly, his star power dims until he is rediscovered in the late 19th century.

LORENZO

Before long, Lorenzo the Magnificent, the unofficial ruler of Florence, for 20-years, visits Botticelli’s studio. Their meeting signals the patron of artists and poets, intends to invite Botticelli to join others living in the family palace. Contemporary Florentines agree Lorenzo is best known for his sponsorship of, in particular, Michelangelo and Botticelli.

Scroll up to the Procession of the Magi. Gozzoli centers the Elder Cosimo on the golden, painted horse. Time has passed; his hair is grey. Sponsorship of, particularly, Michelangelo, and Botticelli.

BROWSE FLORENCE

CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE

The inspirational design is significant because it forges a symbolic connection between Florence and the Renaissance. The octagonal dome is the first built without a temporary wooden structure.

STREET SCENE
EARLY 15TH CENTURY

Notice the character reading from a paper. Literacy among the secular world begins when the printing press is invented in Europe. North America is a beneficiary.

BANKING MEDICI STYLE

The Medici banking system is considered one of the first multinational holding companies in Europe and at its heyday had franchises from London to Constantinople, formerly Istanbul. Far left, notice the gentleman carrying a trunk.

UFFIZI MUSEUM GALLERIES
FLORENCE, ITALY

Uffizi is one of the most frequented museums representing the Italian Renaissance. After the ruling House of Medici died their art collections were pre- arranged to be given to the city of Florence. In 1765 the museum was officially opened to the public.

VIEW OF UFFIZI FROM
THE ARNO RIVER VIEW

The Arno flows in the Italian region of Tuscany dividing Florence the capitol, in two parts, with easy access to Medicis business interests. Tuscany is known for its gorgeous landscapes.

BOTTICELLI AT WORK IN ROME

BOTTICELLI, PERUGINO AND THE
WONDERS OF EARLY RENAISSANCE IN
THE SISTINE CHAPEL - 1481

Look closely. The remarkable, barrel-vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel streches more than
67 feet into the air—Botticelli, Perugino and several other artists are called to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV—who is eager to begin painting the story of Moses.

Michelangelo wants nothing to do with the Sistine Chapel. He is a sculptor lacking experience with Frescoes. Pressured, he agrees to accept the commission, in 1508. Some say the artists painted lying down. Actually, standing was their preference. Noteworthy: Michelangelo attached brackets to the walls. He created this unique system.

The meticulous renovation of the Sistine Chapel began 7 November,1980. The Chapel re-opened to the public 8 April, 1994. Restorers cleaned the Frescoes and undid the work of Pope Pius IV, who had ordered the placement of modesty drapes. In the 1560s, Michelangelo removed the fig leaves and loin cloths.

Rather than slow drying oil and paint, the new method of choice was Tempera painting consisting of a mixture of pigment, egg yolk, and water. Fresh / Fresco painters were praised for their lofty, artistic achievements, in the Early & High Renaissance.

MEET POLIZIANO, POET

ANGELO

Poliziano is his nickname, Ambrosini is his last. A 500-year-old-murder mystery confirms 31 years old Poliziano was poisoned. Exhumed bodies found concentrations of arsenic in his bones and another humanist philosopher who died within months of each other.

Botticelli paints The Birth of Venus near the 16th century. He uses tempera on linen cloth. The artist is inspired by his contemporary, Poliziano, the greatest poet of the Medici court and Lorenzo Medicis favorite. The patron of scholars was fond of classical verses of antiquity influenced by Ovid’s allegorical poem, Metamorphoses.

Ovid sums it up. “My intention is to tell of bodies changed to different forms; the gods who made the changes—will help me or I hope so—with a poem running from the world’s beginning to our own days.” Botticelli, with his exceptional technique and use of materials interprets the verses.

MEDICIS SAVED THE BIRTH OF VENUS

Remember the conspirators who were trying to gain control of the government? In a fit of wild behavior, Dominican Friar, and reformer, Savonarola, riles at Humanists’ influence. He orders a bonfire of masterpieces he describes as sinful “pagan” paintings, 7 February, 1497!

When the Medici family hears of Savonarola’s plan—they come up with one of their own. Given the family’s connections, maybe Venus is rushed to a vault, at the Vatican in Rome. There, she would be spared the horror that lights the sky, in the center of Florence. To keep The Birth of Venus painting out of harms way, she remained in a secret place, for many, many years.

Interpretation of The Birth of Venus

Trees are in bloom for this celebratory occasion. A mythical Greek God and Godesses come together with joy and love in their hearts. Their idealizd figures describe Botticelli’s style. Throughout time, humans have sought to make sense of life’s mysteries—a fair rational to explain why myths were created in the first place. Today, many look to science for answers. Could it be there is something to learn from this allegorical painting about the purity of love most of us seek?

Conclusion

Botticelli cleverly arranges his large canvas to guarantee the composition does not overwhelm. Generous use of water and sky allow your eyes to rest in the tinted spaces. The luminosity Botticelli brings to his colors are extraordinary and enchanting to behold. Alabaster and gold leaf – no problem. Nothing is to lavish for ‘Lorenzo the Magnificent’ and the iconic Venus brought to life from the artist’s brush. In this early Renaissance masterpiece, we can reflect on the images, the message, and how it might feel to glide ashore, on a sea shell.

Strom Scherie, Museum Docent

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