Sandro Botticelli, 1470-1480
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Sandro Botticelli (1444/5-1510), a student of Fra Filippo Lippi, worked in Florence under the patronage of the Medici, and later in Rome for Pope Sixtus IV. There, he joined Ghirlandaio and Rosselli in adorning the walls of the Sistine Chapel around 1481.
By 1490, Botticelli had worn himself out. His style had changed as he had undergone a series of personal crises. His work became unpopular and, by 1510, he was in poor health, dying in poverty—a sad end for one of the period’s most celebrated painters. His early portrait work is particularly notable.
Take this portrait, for example. The sitter was Smeralda Bandinelli, the wife of Viviano Bandinelli and the grandmother of the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli. For all of its implied formality, this is actually a rather casual portrait. Smeralda is depicted in a light summer costume—the sort she’d have worn around the house. Draped and red and white silk, she looks cool and comfortable against a homey backdrop. Painted in Florence, the portrait of tempera on panel dates between 1470 and 1480. Smeralda, by the way, is thought by some to be the face of Botticelli’s famous “Primavera.”