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Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445- May 17, 1510) is known today as one of the masters of what has been called the Golden Age of art, or the Early Renaissance. A member of the Florentine school, Botticelli is best known for his mythological works, his altarpieces, and his religious paintings. Working on an immense scale, Botticelli’s detailed and colorful compositions are some of the most iconic images in the history of art. Born in Florence, Botticelli showed both sharp intelligence and promising talent at an early age, and was quickly given an apprenticeship. He began his artistic career by painting frescoes for Florentine churches and cathedrals, but soon opened his own workshop. Summoned by the Pope of Rome himself, Botticelli was incredibly successful in his lifetime, working under the patronage of the formidable Medici family. Later in life, Botticelli was heavily influenced by the fanatical friar Savonarola, at one point burning his own paintings in the so-called “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Despite his early success, Botticelli succumbed to melancholia and drifted into poverty and obscurity in his final years. Luckily, his name and work were rediscovered in the late-nineteenth century, and his popularity has not diminished since.
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The most iconic painting of Early Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus is an emblem of what is known as the Golden Age of art. Commissioned by the famous Medici family of Florence, the painting was completed around 1486. Botticelli's depiction of the classical goddess of love, now hanging in the Uffizi Gallery, is an exemplar of the artist's use of color and composition to express motifs within the painting; despite some of his contemporaries' dedication to naturalism, Botticelli depicts Venus in a way that is anatomically impossible; her contrapposto stance and shifted weight lend her the aura of fantasy. The gods and goddesses surrounding her have an equally ethereal appearance, and yet Venus, the embodiment of love and beauty, is exceptionally radiant, the paradigm of the Renaissance physical ideal. Her pale skin, golden hair, and voluptuous form have come to be the prototypical image of Venus, as this painting has stood the test of time and persevered in cultural memory.
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