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( Originally Published 1913 )
Botticelli was born in Florence in 1447. He studied with Filippo Lippi, but he was endowed with a fine feeling and sensitive nature that his teacher never possessed. He loved natural beauty and was happily successful in seizing hold of its secrets and subtle effects in his pictures.
Botticelli's first paintings were of a sacred character. Gradually he fell away from Madonnas and drifted into mythological subjects. Ruskin says that he of all Italian painters was best able to delineate equally well the pagan beauty of the ancients and the spiritual beauty of the Madonna. For many years Botticelli was aided and encouraged by the Medici, living for years in the family and meeting them on familiar terms. For one of the Medici palaces he painted many of his mythological pictures. Allegories were also favorites of this artist, and of all these, best known by far is his Spring. Just what the painting signifies cannot be determined. Flora, goddess of flowers, advances, shaking blossoms from her gown, while others spring up at her feet. The three Graces dance around in the joy of perpetual youth. Wonderful indeed is the filmy drapery that clings to the fair sisters and reveals the perfect contour of each form. Mercury is present and Zephyrus, chasing away blustery winter. The face of Flora is weird and her significance is difficult to understand. For a time in recent years Botticelli remained neglected. Even now some admire, others fail to appreciate, his style. To the complete chain each link is essential. So was each painter necessary for the unfoldment of Renaissance art. Each important artist left his special imprint on the general subject; each contributed his portion-whether great or small-and left future ages the richer for his gift.
The later years of Botticelli were filled with sadness. Indeed, his whole life was shadowed by a certain melancholy which left him only for an intensity he felt under the influence of Savonarola. After the death of that somewhat misguided prophet, he declined rapidly in health and spirit. His allegorical painting entitled Calumny is the masterly creation of a mind almost unsettled.