Storia dell'Arte

Sandro Botticelli: the gold of canvases, Florence and Neoplatonism

Prove di Cristo, 1481-1482, affresco, Città del Vaticano, Musei Vaticani, Cappella Sistina

At the time of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) people and their cities were still intrinsically connected one to each other.

That kind of connection no longer exists today, however once it was more evident.

Between you and me and the walls, as young Europeans we could not even take in regard one who would never move from his beloved, for example, Florence, a part for someone who is on a “non sense talk”.

Let us suppose that is linked to something; usually we set our identity on a larger level, on many cities, on many nations, on different typical habits of a community, subsumed to one kind of person: the inhabitant of Europe.

A bit like an American who considers himself both tied to the city where he lives and, but first of all, an USA citizen.

In Botticelli’s time things were not as vast as today, yet they were more detailed and even more could be said, absolutizing.

I would venture, perhaps the nihilism of the current era, that feeling that everything comes out from nowhere and then returns to it, is the result of the first impact that the widening of borders has brought with it.

A first indefinite, unconscious feeling of lack of boundaries, of loss of identity, due to the lengthening and widening of the nucleus.

We could think that -this nihilism- is the perception of a momentary result, the photography of a moment.

On the other hand, isn’t it just a moment in the world clock, what separates us from the peace imposed on the terrifying second world?

Today’s nihilism should be linked to a moment which is therefore attributable to what passes while a eukaryotic cell divides, when the nuclei are duplicated and just before the definitive division of the cytoplasm.

Things were in a certain way when Alessandro was young, without any doubts happy and also in full swing, that is already quite a lot after he was given the name of Botticelli, chosen according to the most plausible explanation, for the fact that as a boy in Florence he attended the goldsmith’s shop of a guy named Botticello.

But surely before Savonarola’s preaching tragically darkened the faces of the Florentines and, so to speak, turned off the brushes of the artists.

Prove di Mosè, 1481-1482, affresco, Città del Vaticano, Musei Vaticani, Cappella Sistina

The philosophical culture of Florence in Sandro’s youth was neo-Platonic.

Right or wrong that it is on other levels, one could only get good as well as of course beautiful and for a considerable stretch that neo-Platonic culture also fits in well with the vision of the Papacy.

This could be said with greater certainty based on other issues, however this affinity for Neoplatonism is serenely evident from a fact.

In 1481 Pope Sixtus iv commits a delegation of four Florentine painters, including our Sandro, to paint , “Decem historias Testamenti Antiqui et Novi” , a Latin phrase that in American means ” Ten stories from the Old and New Testaments“.

The commission was for frescoes in the rooms of the “apostolic magna palatii” , better known by the name of the Sistine Chapel , the chapel which in the vision of Sixtus iv, must become the correct image of the temple of Solomon.

At the center of that dozen paintings, we see the idea of comparing the life of the two historical figures certainly seen in their sacred guise: that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth and Moses.

Punizione di Qorah, Dathan e Abiram, 1481-1482, affresco, Città del Vaticano, Musei Vaticani, Cappella Sistina

The intent to draw a parallel between the events of the two is evident and declared.

So much so that the biographical events of Moses are historically to be interpreted as prefiguring two things, the advent of the son of god.

And in a not at all secondary way, prefiguring a parallelism between the two nuclei of the Bible, the Old and the New Testament.

One could even refer among the “superiority of the New Testament” in this part what was announced in the other one is fully fulfilled, which correlated the pre-existence of the Christian religion in Hebrew.

Sandro Botticelli is the artist to whom this article in the History of Art section of Inside The Staircase is dedicated.

We talk about him in a precise time segment, during 1481-1482; Sandro Botticelli was in Rome in those years it was the period he was committed by Pope Sixtus IV, and he was painting alongside the magnificent painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, probably through the intercession of Giovannino de ‘Dolci.

Beside him there is not only Ghirlandaio, Sandro is together with the very elegant and unmistakable Pietro Perugino, just as he is shoulder to shoulder with the great Cosimo Rosselli; so he was not alone, not at all while he was paintig frescoes on Vatican halls.

Yet the stretch of Botticelli on the biblical talebrings with it a verticalization wax and voltage .

Some authors, comparing the Florentine paintings to the Roman ones, note the Botticellian tension.

The interpretation of this artistic nuance in Botticelli ‘s frescoes exists and is linked to the consideration of a contribution by Sandro Botticelli, to transmitting the restlessness of the Old Testament spirituality .

Old Testament spirituality which would lack some kind of serenity, in its confines alone, that is, remaining adherent to the chronological narrative linked to the writing of the Bible, in the narrated narratives there is, so to speak, a different climate compared to the second part.

In the books of the Old Testament the blazing light of Christ would be missing in a tangible way because although it is probable that the protagonists sincerely awaited the advent of the Messiah, they still had not known him and still had not received his message of love.

Botticelli manages to paint everything, even that pre-Christ restlessness , interpretable as a characteristic feature of the Old Testament.

We understand it on the walls of the Sistine, knowing Sandro, his history, his hand, his ability as well as his sensitivity; at the Sistine Chapel for the part requested by Sixtus iv, we are able to see something more, to remove a veil from the story and connect directly to the sacred text seen in the parallel between the two nuclei.

Yes Botticelli is worth being loved for more than a few seconds.

And to understand it, I will now say something that applies to anything one really wants to understand, one must destabilize oneself.

We must first seek before understanding that there is a quantity of the unknown that we will not be able to bring within our horizon, we must come to the compromise that if we really want to understand anything, whatever it is, provided it is small, we must change.

If the change were also about adding something to ourselves, but we have to change.

Understanding, knowing something new, if it happens truthfully, will make us change, for this there will be a moment when we will feel slightly disturbed: it is the moment when the drop of color has fallen into the white paint pot.

I am on an example to make, I think of these videos that I love to watch online when I have free time; an artistic technique that uses paint seems to be popular.

Take a container, for example a plastic cup, fill it with paint; you can make layers of color with the paint because that liquid paint is consistent enough to remain suspended on the underlying one at least for a while; in short, then at will you can add a drop of a different color.

Then you take the canvas to be painted, place it on the mouth of the glass and turn it upside down, like an omelette.

When we learn something we add a color to the shot glass, we don’t stay the same.

We are both the glass and the paint that is inside, accumulated over time like our experiences, like our knowledge, layered of different types and which are in a relationship of interpenetration between them.

Being fascinated without corrupting is certainly a defect.

Sandro Botticelli spoke through drawing, he had a capacity to express anything he wished; the predominant color is neoplatonism, of the other drops there are, beautiful as gold.

Here we tried to sift through at least one straw, to pull out a drop of color.

Look at his frescoes on the walls of the Sistine in the Vatican, remember that that part of the walls painted it in four, Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli, Perugino and him, Sandro Botticelli.

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