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Sandro Botticelli | Renaissance painter | Portraits


Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445 - May 17, 1510)** painted a number of portraits, although not nearly as many as have been attributed to him. There are a number of idealized portrait-like paintings of women which probably do not represent a specific person (several closely resemble the Venus in his Venus and Mars). Traditional gossip links these to the famous beauty Simonetta Vespucci, who died aged twenty-two in 1476, but this seems unlikely.
These figures represent a secular link to his Madonnas.










With one or two exceptions his small independent panel portraits show the sitter no further down the torso than about the bottom of the rib-cage.
Women are normally in profile, full or just a little turned, whereas men are normally a "three-quarters" pose, but never quite seen completely frontally. Even when the head is facing more or less straight ahead, the lighting is used to create a difference between the sides of the face.
Backgrounds may be plain, or show an open window, usually with nothing but sky visible through it. A few have developed landscape backgrounds. These characteristics were typical of Florentine portraits at the beginning of his career, but old-fashioned by his last years.
Many portraits exist in several versions, probably most mainly by the workshop; there is often uncertainty in their attribution. Often the background changes between versions while the figure remains the same.
His male portraits have also often held dubious identifications, most often of various Medicis, for longer than the real evidence supports. Lightbown attributes him only with about eight portraits of individuals, all but three from before about 1475.
Botticelli often slightly exaggerates aspects of the features to increase the likeness. He also painted portraits in other works, as when he inserted a self-portrait and the Medici into his early Adoration of the Magi.
Several figures in the Sistine Chapel frescos appear to be portraits, but the subjects are unknown, although fanciful guesses have been made. Large allegorical frescos from a villa show members of the Tornabuoni family together with gods and personifications; probably not all of these survive but ones with portraits of a young man with the Seven Liberal Arts and a young woman with Venus and the Three Graces are now in the Louvre.



































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