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Botticelli, Sandro

Botticelli, Sandro 1445-1510 was a ward of the Medici family. He painted portraits of the family and many religious pictures. From 1481-82 he painted wall frescoes in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican. Most of his paintings were religious in nature.

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli ( Florence March 1, 1445 – May 17, 1510) was an Italian painter of the Florentine school during the Early Renaissance (Quattrocento). Less than a hundred years later, this moment, under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici, was characterized by Giorgio Vasari as a “golden age” a thought, suitably enough, he expressed at the head of his Vita of Botticelli.

Born in Florence in the working-class rione of Ognissanti, Botticelli was first apprenticed to a goldsmith, then, following the boy’s wishes, his doting father sent him to Fra Filippo Lippi who was at work frescoing the Convent of the Carmine. Lippo Lippi’s synthesis of the new control of three-dimensional forms, tender expressiveness in face and gesture, and decorative details inherited from the late Gothic style were the strongest influences on Botticelli. A different influence was the new scuptural monumentality of the Pollaiuolo brothers, who were doing a series of Virtues for the Tribunale or meeting hall of the Mercanzia, a cloth-merchants’ confraternity, and Botticello contributed to the set the Fortitude, dated 1470 in the Uffizi Gallery . He was an apprentice too of Andrea del Verrocchio, where Leonardo da Vinci worked beside him, but he made his name in his local Church of Ognisanti, with a Saint Augustine that successfully competed as a pendant with Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Jerome on the other side “the head of the saint being expressive of profound thought and quick subtlety” (Vasari) In 1470 he opened his own independent studio.

Lorenzo de’ Medici was quick to employ his talent. Botticelli made consistent use of the circular tondo form and did many beautiful female nudes, according to Vasari. The Birth of Venus (illustration, right) was at the Medici villa of Castello.

He was influenced in his art by Fra Filippo Lippi and Antonio Pollaiuolo. The repeated contacts with the Medici family were undoubtedly useful for granting him political protection and creating conditions ideal for his production of several masterpieces.

Sandro was intensely religious. In later life, he was one of Savonarola’s followers and burned his own paintings on pagan themes in the notorious “Bonfire of the Vanities”. Earlier, Botticelli had painted an Assumption of the Virgin for Matteo Palmieri in a chapel at San Pietro Maggiore in which, it was rumored, both the patron who dictated the iconic scheme and the painter who painted it, were guilty of unidentified heresy, a delicate requirement in such a subject. The heretical notions seem to be Gnostic in character:

“By the side door of San Piero Maggiore he did a panel for Matteo Palmieri, with a large number of figures representing the Assumption of Our Lady with zones of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, doctors, virgins, and the orders of angels, the whole from a design given to him by Matteo, who was a worthy and learned man. He executed this work with the greatest mastery and diligence, introducing the portraits of Matteo and his wife on their knees. But although the great beauty of this work could find no other fault with it, said that Matteo and Sandro were guilty of grave heresy. Whether this be true or not, I cannot say.” (Vasari)

This is a common misconception based on a mistake by Vasari. The painting referred to here, now in the National Gallery in London, is by the artist Botticini. Vasari confused their similar sounding names.

Though comparatively few of Botticelli’s mythological paintings survive, the Primavera (illustration, left) epitomizes his use of classical mythology as vehicles to illustrate the sentiments that are actually derived from medieval courtly love. (Jean Seznec’s book on the survival and new uses of pagan Antiquity in the Renaissance explored these themes in depth.) Sandro’s commissioned Adoration of the Magi for Santa Maria Novella, ca 1476, with the portraits of Cosimo de’ Medici (“the finest of all that are now extant for its life and vigour”), his grandson Giuliano de’ Medici, and Cosimo’s son Giovanni, were effusively described by Vasari:

“The beauty of the heads in this scene is indescribable, their attitudes all different, some full-face, some in profile, some three-quarters, some bent down, and in various other ways, while the expressions of the attendants, both young and old, are greatly varied, displaying the artist’s perfect mastery of his profession. Sandro further clearly shows the distinction between the suites of each of the kings. It is a marvellous work in colur, design and composition, and the wonder and admiration of all artists.”

The Adoration brought Sandro such a reputation in Florence and abroad that Pope Sixtus IV called him to Rome in July 1481, part of a team of Florentine and Umbrian artists who had been summoned to fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel, the project where Renaissance painting arrived in Rome. The iconological program was the supremacy of the Papacy. Sandro did his job there, was well paid by the Pope, spent all that he earned in his characteristic generous impractical manner, unveiled the paintings, which were a revelation to Roman patrons and artists. But Botticelli didn’t stay to reap the benefits of the patronage in papal circles that would have come his way; he packed up his brushes and immediately returned to Florence.

“Being of a sophistical turn of mind, he there wrote a commentary on a portion of Dante and illustrated the Inferno which he printed, spending much time over it, and this abstention from work led to serious disorders in his living.” Thus Vasari characterized the first printed Dante (1481) with Botticelli’s decorations; he could not imagine that the new art of printing might occupy an artist. As for the subject, when Fra Girolamo Savonarola began to preach hellfire and damnation, the susceptible Sandro Botticelli became one of his adherents, a piagnone left painting as a worldly vanity, burned much of his own early work, fell into poverty as a result, and would have starved but for the tender support of his former patrons.

A touch of “Swan Song” and a dash of “The Stand”…Very good post-apocalyptic tale in the mode and mood of R. McCammon’s “Swan Song” and S. King’s “The Stand”. ★★★★★

Excerpt from Troop of Shadows:

Prologue
Colleyville, Texas
October

Dani cursed the weight of her backpack. The final two items from the ransacked Walgreens, crammed in as an afterthought ten minutes ago, might cost her everything. After surviving the last twelve months of hell only to be thwarted now by a can of Similac and a twelve-pack of Zest soap, would be sadly anticlimactic. Despite running at a full sprint down a dark suburban street, dodging overflowing garbage cans while eluding three men who would steal her hard-won tubes of Neosporin and likely rape and kill her in the process, she snorted at the thought of a fictional headline: Young Woman’s Life Ends Tragically but Zestfully Clean.

Damn it, she would ditch the backpack. She could come back tomorrow night for it, but right now staying alive outweighed any future benefit its contents might provide. As her pursuers rounded the corner behind her, she darted across the front lawn of a house and leaped over a cluster of dead juniper shrubs. A year ago, those shrubs had been green, manicured, and providing curb appeal to the upscale neighborhood; they functioned now as a hurdle component in the obstacle course Dani navigated on most nights.

She angled toward the side of the house and around the corner, only to come to an abrupt stop next to a six-foot barricade. Residents of these sprawling bedroom communities situated between Dallas and Fort Worth clung to their privacy fences as fiercely as their rural counterparts did to their firearms. Why all those day-trading dads and cheerleader moms required such secrecy was beyond Dani. She didn’t care. All that mattered was how difficult they made her nightly forages. Only idiots or people with a death wish traveled alone on the streets anymore. The clever ones navigated through backyards and drainage ditches, shadowed easements and alleyway, avoiding open spaces and other humans.

Especially humans traveling in groups.

Stealth and caution were second nature to her now, and she was pissed at herself for loading up the backpack with more weight than she could easily carry at a full run.

Rookie mistake.

She flung the pack into the undergrowth of a once meticulous garden, making a mental note of the enormous red tip photinia which camouflaged the bundle in a leafy shroud. She hoped to be alive the next day to retrieve it.

She clambered up the fence, finding a toehold on a warped plank, and squirmed over the top. A silver fingernail of a moon did little to illuminate the backyard. Weak starlight reflected off the inky surface of a half-empty, kidney-shaped swimming pool. Her Nikes gripped the concrete deck as she skirted the murky water and made a beeline for the back of the yard that was, of course, separated from its neighbor by a privacy fence. It was a tall one too — a full ten feet. There were no bushes or trees to use for leverage either. She scanned the area for anything that might serve as a step ladder.

Of all the yards she could have chosen for her escape, she’d picked one with a damn ten-foot fence.

Her heart raced from the sprint, but not from panic. Gone was the young woman from a year ago, the full-time floundering college dropout and part-time surly Starbucks barista who spent too much time reading books and not enough time looking for a job that would allow her to move out of her parents’ house. She was too smart for her own good, everyone had told her. She should have taken that secretarial position in North Dallas, but she would have lost her sanity in that environment. The tedious filing, the ringing phones, the office politics — in other words, hell on earth for a girl with an IQ over a hundred and fifty.

Despite the recent horrors, she’d come into her own at last, after twenty-one years of meandering through life unfocused and unchallenged. The extra twenty pounds she’d been carrying courtesy of Freddy’s cheeseburgers and Taco Bell burritos were gone, thanks to her newfound self-discipline and endless hours of Krav Maga training with Sam. Not only had she transformed her body, she’d elevated and strengthened her mind as well. Before the power had gone out, she’d watched countless tutorials on T’ai Chi, Qigong, and Buddhist meditation. During that same window — when people were beginning to get sick, but before most of them had died — she’d combed book stores and libraries within a fifteen-mile radius. When the country went dark and people realized that life-saving information was no longer available with a few keystrokes, Dani had amassed reference material on subjects as diverse as hydroponics and combat first aid, ancient meat drying techniques and bomb making. Between martial arts lessons with Sam, she spent every spare minute absorbing the printed esoteric knowledge like a greedy lizard on a sun-drenched rock.

Knowledge was survival.

When the first of the men slithered over the fence into the backyard, she hadn’t found anything to use as a foothold. Another figure followed behind him. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it from her lungs, slow and measured, then took off at a full run toward them. While she ran, fingers slid down to a leather sheath secured to her belt. Two seconds before she reached the first of her would-be assailants, a Ka-Bar — the grandaddy of tactical knives — was in her hand.

Dani used momentum and every ounce of her one-hundred-twenty pound frame to slam the first man into the second, knocking both assailants off-balance and unprepared for her next move: a vicious stab to the groin of the first. He collapsed to his knees. She followed with a backhand movement, opening up the throat of his companion. A similar gesture to the man with the injured groin silenced his moaning.

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