Botticelli: Biographical and Critical Study

Botticelli: Biographical and Critical Study

Botticelli: Biographical and Critical Study

Botticelli: Biographical and Critical Study

Excerpt

SANDRO BOTTICELLI was born only seven years before Leonardo da Vinci. Yet Botticelli is always regarded as a Quattrocento painter and Leonardo as a Cinquecento painter. And not without reason. Leonardo originated the modern conception of art as an inquiry, an investigation, a personal quest. Inherited and developed by Raphael and Correggio, this ideal of an culminated in Caravaggio, who restated it in rigorously moral terms, opposing his ethic of action to Michelangelo's ethic of contemplation.

It is true of course that Botticelli's aesthetic ideal was also given a deep moral significance in the art of Michelangelo, but Michelangelo's ethic of contemplation was destined in a few years' time to dwindle into the Mannerists' ethic of form; and it was not to be taken up again until several centuries later, by the early Romantics, in that aesthetic of the Sublime which was, above all else, a nostalgic pining for a long-lost ideal and an attempt to clothe the tattered splendors of the past in the solemn garb of eternity.

Leonardo's new aesthetic, which involved a sweeping renewal of values, came at a critical juncture in history when all traditional values were being challenged. This turning point is clearly reflected in the art of his contemporary, Botticelli, who like him had matured in Verrocchio's workshop, undoubtedly the most stimulating art milieu to be found in Italy in the second half of the 15th century.

The antithesis between Leonardo and Botticelli--which by the way prefigures the future contrast between Leonardo and Michelangelo--rested on the impossibility of reconciling the metaphysical function of art with its historical function. It was impossible to give any further development to the systematic . . .

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