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France 2000. Botticelli. Venus and Graces offering a present to a young  woman.

France 2000.  
Venus and Graces 
offering a present 
to a young woman

Sandro Botticelli

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USA 1983. Botticelli. Madonna and Child. Christmas Stamp.

USA 1983.  
Madonna and Child
Scan by courtesy of 
Steve Grant (USA)

Sandro Botticelli, whose real name was Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, was one of the leading painters of the Florentine Renaissance. He developed a highly personal style characterized by elegant execution, a sense of melancholy, and a strong emphasis on line; details in his paintings appear as sumptuous still lifes. Botticelli was born in Florence, the son of a tanner. The name ("little barrel") by which he became known was either the nickname of his elder brother or the name of the goldsmith to whom he was first apprenticed. Later he was apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi. He worked with the painter and engraver Antonio del Pollaiuolo, from whom he gained his sense of line, and came under the influence of Andrea del Verrocchio.

France 1992. Botticelli. The Foundation of Ajaccio (Corsica). Detail of the painting "The Virgin and the Child".

By 1470, Botticelli had his own workshop. He spent almost all of his life working for the great Florentine families, especially the Medici family, for whom he painted portraits, most notably the Giuliano de' Medici (1475-1476, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). Adoration of the Magi (1476-1477, Uffizi, Florence) was painted on commission (though not for the Medicis), and contains likenesses of the Medici family. 

As part of the brilliant intellectual and artistic circle at the court of Lorenzo de' Medici, Botticelli was influenced by its Christian Neoplatonism, which sought to reconcile Classical and Christian views.  This synthesis is expressed in Primavera (c. 1478) and Birth of Venus (after 1482), two panels commissioned for Medici villas and now in the Uffizi, probably Botticelli's best-known works. 

Aden Quaiti State of Hadhramaut 1967. Botticelli. "Simonetta Vespuchi".

While scholars have not yet conclusively deciphered these paintings, their slender elegant figures, which form abstract linear patterns bathed in soft golden light, may depict Venus as a symbol of both pagan and Christian love. 

Paraguay 1971. Botticelli. "Birth of Venus".
Monaco 1997. Botticelli. Detail of "Le Printemps". San Marino 1972. Botticelli. Detail of "Le Printemps". San Marino 1972. Botticelli. Detail of "Simonetta Vespuchi as Venus", and Flora.

Botticelli also painted religious subjects, especially panels of the Madonna, such as the Madonna of the Magnificat (1480s), Madonna of the Pomegranate (1480s), and Coronation of the Virgin (1490), all in the Uffizi, and Madonna and Child with Two Saints (1485, Staatliche Museen, Berlin). Other religious works include St Sebastian (1473-1474, Staatliche Museen) and a fresco, St Augustine (1480, Ognissanti, Florence). In 1481 Botticelli was one of several artists chosen to go to Rome to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. There he executed The Youth of Moses, the Punishment of the Sons of Corah, and the Temptation of Christ. 

Only "The Youth of Moses" has been issued on stamps in 2000, celebrating the finishing of the restoration of The Sistine Chapel.  This stamp has appeared in a set of four, showing frescoes in the Sistine Chapel by various medieval artists. 

The Vatican 2000. Botticelli. "The Youth of Moses". Frescoe on the Sistine Chapel. Vatican 2000. Botticelli. First Day Cover, cancelled 9th May 2000,.

The Vatican 2000. Enlargement of the cachet on the First Day Cover.

An enlargement of the cachet shown on the above First Day Cover.  

It is interesting to compare the original frescoe with the stamp, and see the how faded the original looked, and how it has been considerably "revived" in the cleaning up.  

A huge number of Botticelli-stamps have been issued world wide, all more or less showing the same paintings over and over again.  The below set from Guinea Bissau, issued in 1985, shows a good variety of his paintings.  

 Guinea Bissau 1985. Gallery of various Botticelli-paintings.

In the 1490s, when the Medici were expelled from Florence and the Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola preached austerity and reform, Botticelli experienced a religious crisis. His subsequent works, such as the Pietá (early 1490s, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan) and especially the Mystic Nativity (1490s, National Gallery, London) and Mystic Crucifixion (c. 1496, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts), reflect an intense religious devotion. Botticelli died in Florence on May 17, 1510.  
  • Italy 1973.  Self-Portrait. 

Italy 1973. Botticelli. Self-portrait.

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