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thenceforward the boy thought it right to be called Botticello's Sandro, and nobody else's (in Italian Sandro di Botticello, abbreviated into Sandro Botticelli).1 Having learned prosperously how to manage gold, he took a sancy to know how to manage colour, and was put under the best master in Florence, the Monk Lippi.” The characteristics of Lippi's art—its union of a buoyant spirit of life and enjoyment with simplicity and tenderness of religious feeling-are seen in the pupil, who, however, added in his turn characteristics of his own, which are noticed under his several pictures. His range of subject was very wide-embracing Venus crowned with roses and the Virgin crowned by Christ, the birth of Love (at Florence) and the birth of the Saviour. “By this time he was accounted so good a divine, as well as painter, that Pope Sixtus IV. sent for him to be master of the works in his new (Sistine) chapel. And having thus obtained great honour and reputation, and considerable sums of money, he squandered all the last away; and then, returning to Florence, set himself to comment upon and illustrate Dante. And at this time, Savonarola beginning to make himself heard, and founding in Florence the company of the Piagnoni (Mourners or Grumblers, as opposed to the men of pleasure), Sandro made a Grumbler of himself, being then some forty years old ; fell sadder, wiser, and poorer, day by day; until he became a poor bedesman of Lorenzo de' Medici; and having gone some time on crutches, being unable to stand upright, died peacefully” (Ariadne Florentina, Lecture VI. ; Fors Clarigera, 1872, xxii. 2-6).
The other pictures by him in the National Gallery (see I. 915 and 275, pp. 31, 34, and in this room 1126, p. 59) adequately represent his earlier phases; this one completes the story of his life-obviously painted as it is under Savonarola's influence
Wrought in the troublous times of Italy
By Sandro Botticelli, when for fear
Of that last judgment, and last day drawn near
ANDREW LANG: Ballads and Lyrics, etc. The theological symbolism may be seen in the gesture of
1 "The early Italian masters felt themselves so indebted to, and formed by, the master-craftsman who had mainly disciplined their fingers, whether in work on gold or marble, that they practically considered him their father, and took his name rather than their own ; so that most of the great Italian workmen are now known, not by their own names, but by those of their masters (or of their native towns or villages—these being recognised as masters also) the master being himself often entirely forgotten by the public, and eclipsed by his pupil ; but immortal in his pupil, and named in his name, . . . All which I beg you to take to heart and meditate on concerning Mastership and Pupilage" (Fors Clavigera, 1872, xxii. 3, 4).
the divine Child pointing to his mouth—typifying that he was the Word of God. So at the bottom of the picture there are devils running, at Christ's coming, into chinks of the rocks (those who are Christ's must put away "the works of darkness"); whilst the shepherds and angels embracing signify the reconciliation such as Savonarola wished to effect between heaven and earth. On either side of the central group angels are telling the glad tidings “of peace on earth, goodwill towards men.” Note the symmetry in this part of the picture; the three Magi on the left, the three shepherds in adoration on the right; and in colour, the red frock of the angel on the right, the red wings on the left. Meanwhile in the sky above is a lovely choir of Botticelli's floating angels, dancing between earth and heaven, on a golden background suffused with light. The introduction in the same picture of the solemn teaching below, with these beautiful angel forms above, suggests precisely what Mr. Ruskin has defined to be Botticelli's position among pictorial reformers. “He was what Luther wished to be, but could not be—a reformer still believing in the Church ; his mind is at peace, and his art therefore can pursue the delight of beauty and yet remain prophetic." "He was not a preacher of new doctrines, but a witness against the betrayal of old ones, which were on the lips of all men, and in the lives of none."
The picture was painted in 1500 (two years after Savonarola's death), as we learn from the inscription at the top in Greek, which being interpreted is “ This picture I, Alexander, painted at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, in the halftime after the time during the fulfilment of the eleventh of St. John, in the Second Woe of the Apocalypse, in the loosing of the devil for three years and a half. Afterwards he shall be chained, and we shall see him trodden down, as in this picture.” 598. ST. FRANCIS WITH THE “STIGMATA.”
Filippino Lippi (1457–1504). See under I. 293, p. 20. St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order of monks (the Black Friars), was the great apostle of Works, whilst St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order (White Friars), was the great apostle of Faith. It was the teaching of these two orders that gave the impetus to the church building, from which grew the art revival at Florence in the thirteenth century. * The gospel of works, according to St. Francis, lay in three things. You must work without money, and be poor. You must work without pleasure, and be chaste. You must work according to orders, and be obedient.” And so truly did he in his own works exemplify the life of Christ, that, according to the legend of the time, he received also in his own person the wounds (or "stigmata ") of the Crucified One—here visible on his hands. (" Take my yoke upon you ; " " Take up the cross and follow me.") “His reception of the "stigmata' is, perhaps, a marvellous instance of the power of imagination over physical conditions ; perhaps an equally marvellous instance of the swift change of metaphor into tradition ; but assuredly, and beyond dispute, one of the most influential, significant, and instructive traditions possessed by the Church of Christ.” The saint is here represented in glory ; choirs of singing angels encompass him ; for now “the wounds of his Master are his inheritance, the cross-sign not of triumph, but of trial, is his reward” (Mornings in Florence, i. 8, 13; iii. 64). Inscribed on the picture below are some lines from a Latin hymn to St. Francis, exhorting others to follow him, and to advance as he did the standards of their king (“Let those who depart out of Egypt follow him, and be united to him, in whom the standards of the King come forth for us in clear light”).
The floating angels recall those by Botticelli, but the pupil's work is not here so good : these angels seem after all to be standing, Botticelli's to be indeed floating in thin air. Lippi, too, learnt no doubt from him the goldsmith's work, seen here in the indented background to the picture. 1126. THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN.
Botticelli (1446-1510). See under 1034, P, 56. A picture with an interesting history. It was painted by Botticelli when he was quite a young man, for Matteo Palmieri (a prominent Florentine citizen). This Matteo and his wife are here represented on either side of the tomb in the foreground. The patron, according to Vasari, assisted Botticelli in working out the design ; and between them they made some modifications in theology, which brought them into trouble—so early did Sandro's reforming work begin. For Matteo Palmieri was the author of a poem called “ The City of Life,” in which he adopted Origen's heresy that the human race was an incarnation of those angels who in the revolt of Lucifer were neither for God nor for his enemies. Botticelli's picture was suspected of embodying its owner's heresy, the chapel for which it was painted was closed, and the picture was covered up until it left Florence for the Duke of Hamilton's collection, from which it was bought by the nation in 1882, True or false, this story of the heresy interprets (says Mr. Pater) much of the peculiar sentiment with which Botticelli infuses his profane and sacred persons,— neither all human, nor all divine (see under I, 275, p. 35 n.)
The subject of the picture is the Assumption into Heaven of the Virgin. On earth the apostles are represented gathered around the Virgin's tomb, from which “annunciation lilies " are growing ; while she is in heaven kneeling in adoration before the Saviour, who has an open book inscribed with the mystic letters A and 12: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” Around the Virgin and Christ are all the hierarchies of heaven, arranged according to the scheme of the theologians in three separate tiers. Nearest to Christ are the seraphs (red), cherubs (blue), and thrones (gold); these are conceived as absorbed in perpetual love and adoration round the throne of God, and are represented therefore as with heads only (the attribute of spirit), and wings (“ swift as thought”). In relation with mankind come the remaining orders — the dominations, virtues, powers (these last with sceptres in their hands), and in the lowest of the three tiers, archangels, princedoms, and angels (with their wands). “The black vases with golden borders in the hands of some of the angels are probably meant for the 'golden vials full of the wrath of God.' (Revelations, xv. 7). Near them there are other angels, who in the attitude of expectation point upward with their sticks; while those in the lowest circle point down, and at the same time seem to invite those who hold vials to pour them out upon the city of Florence” (Richter, p. 28). Everywhere amongst the angelic host are the blessed dead; patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, doctors, and virgins. Amongst the cherubs, for instance, one may decipher St. James with the pilgrim staff, St. Andrew with his cross, St. Peter with the key, and St. Mary Magdalen with the casket. The angels are represented throughout as ministering spirits ; and nothing in the picture is prettier than the way in which the angels are calling upon the saints to “enter into the joy of their Lord”; note, for instance, the white angel
on the right in the lowest tier, and the saint in black and red. She will teach to him
The songs I sing here ; which his voice
Shall pause in, hushed and slow,
D. G. Rossetti : The Blessed Damosel. There are many charming single figures ; note, for instance, two angels in the lower tier in the centre; and all are characteristic of the new type of angels which Botticelli introduced — forsaking entirely the conventional idealism of earlier religious art, and substituting the waving garments and flowing hair (suggestive of atmosphere and swiftness of motion) which we see in Perugino and Raphael. Finally we may notice the view of Florence and the Val d'Arno in the background
The valley beneath where, white and wide,
BROWNING: Old Pictures in Florence. 226. VIRGIN AND CHILD, WITH ST. JOHN AND
ANGELS. Botticelli (1446-1510). See under 1034, p. 56. In the background is a hedge of roses, Botticelli's favourite flower. “No man has ever yet drawn, and none is likely to draw for many a day, roses as well as Sandro has drawn them" (Fors Clavigera, 1872, xxii. 2). And he painted them, just as he painted his Madonnas, from life, and from every-day lifefor even as late as forty years ago, Florence was “yet encircled by a wilderness of wild rose.” It should be noticed, further, that there was a constant Biblical reference in the flowers which the painters consecrated to their Madonnas- especially the rose, the emblem of love and beauty. The background in Madonna pictures is frequently, as here, a piece of garden trellis : “a garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse” (Song of Solomon, iv, 12).
887. ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST AND SAINTS.
Fra Filippo Lippi (about 1406-1469). Lippi's general characteristics, noticed above under the companion picture (666, p. 52) may again be seen here. The