Botticelli: Life and Work

Botticelli: Life and Work

by Ronald Lightbown, R. W. Lightbown
Back in stock is the book Newsweek proclaimed "glorious."

The paintings of Sandro Botticelli are some of the most deeply loved works ever created. But the direct and immediate beauty of such paintings as the Primavera, the Birth of Venus, and Pallas and the Centaur, with their lyrical forms and luminous color, belie a complex and sophisticated iconography--the


Back in stock is the book Newsweek proclaimed "glorious."

The paintings of Sandro Botticelli are some of the most deeply loved works ever created. But the direct and immediate beauty of such paintings as the Primavera, the Birth of Venus, and Pallas and the Centaur, with their lyrical forms and luminous color, belie a complex and sophisticated iconography--the product of an artist and a time of highly refined sensibilities.

When Ronald Lightbown published his monograph on Botticelli in 1978 it was immediately recognized as the definitive work on the subject, one that thoroughly delineated the Renaissance master's life and work and disentangled many of the enigmas associated with his remarkable body of painting. But the subsequent cleaning and restoration of many of Botticelli's most famous works, which began in 1978, has necessitated a reassessment of his remarkable technique and dazzling use of color, and has provided a splendid opportunity for Lightbown to revise his landmark study.

While this beautiful new edition performs the important task of analyzing recent scholarly advances, it also presents for the first time a full complement of color images for each of Botticelli's autograph paintings as well as dozens of spectacular details-over 217 plates, many full page. Specially commissioned photography of the Sistine frescoes and other newly cleaned masterpieces reveal Botticelli's vibrant use of color as never before. A selection of his drawings and workshop pictures and paintings by contemporaries such as Fra Filippo Lippi round out this definitive presentation.

Every aspect of the Florentine painter's art is examined and illustrated in this beautiful and scholarlyvolume: his devotional work-frescoes, altarpieces, tondi-his portraits, his illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy, his secular paintings, and his representations of classical myth. The book begins by describing Botticelli's family, early life, and apprenticeship to Fra Filippo Lippi. Then follows a discussion of the development of his career, his emergence as an independent master, and his stay in Rome to help fresco the newly completed Sistine Chapel. Carefully and gracefully, Lightbown relates Botticelli's paintings to the complex and contradictory culture of fifteenth-century Florence, a society that combined worldly pageantry with piety, classical learning with vernacular vigor. Lightbown focuses particularly on the artist's relationship with the Medici as well as other prominent Florentine families, and concludes with a discussion of the intense, highly wrought paintings of his last years.

Other Details: 213 illustrations, 186 in full color 336 pages 11 x 11" Published 1989

"An absorbing text, fresh photographs of every autograph work and marvelous enlarged details... All students of Botticelli should own this volume." --Publishers Weekly

Author Biography: Ronald Lightbown is a leading scholar in the field of Renaissance art. From 1975 to 1984 he served as the keeper of the library at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, and from then until 1989 as keeper of the department of metalwork there. His widely praised publications include the first edition of Sandro Botticelli (1978), French Secular Medieval Goldsmith's Work: A History (1978), Donatello and Michelozzo: An Artistic Partnership and Its Patrons in the Early Renaissance (1980), Mantegna (1986), and Piero della Francesca (1992) as well as numerous articles and museum catalogs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``There is no more radiant picture in European art than this,'' writes Lightbown of Botticelli's Birth of Venus . That painting, as well as the Primavera and other Botticelli masterpieces, have been newly cleaned in the past decade, so the radiance of their reproductions dazzle in this expanded revision of Lightbown's 1978 monograph. An absorbing text, fresh photographs of every autograph work and marvelous enlarged details of the cleaned ones situate the Florentine innovator in the hothouse of 15th-century politics and Renaissance culture. How did Botticelli break away from the Gothic style of his mentors to achieve his powerful, plastic idiom? By painful trial and error, Lightbown demonstrates. This British expert on Renaissance painting discusses Botticelli's remarkable portraits (only eight or so survive), his religious visions and the agitated energy of his almost hallucinatory drawings for Dante's Divine Comedy. All students of Botticelli should own this resplendent volume. (Dec.)

Product Details

Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
2nd ed
Product dimensions:
11.39(w) x 13.27(h) x 1.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

From the Foreword:

The first edition of this book was published in 1978 in two volumes, one of text, one of catalogue, through the good offices of Professor Charles Mitchell. It gives me very great pleasure to renew my thanks to him for his kindness and encouragement.

One principal reason for issuing this second edition of the text volume, which was always designed to stand by itself, is that a number of major pictures by Botticelli, including the Primavera, Pallas and the Centaur, and the Birth of Venus, have been cleaned during the last decade. As a result certain features that were imperfectly visible or illegible have emerged into clarity. More important still, our knowledge of Botticelli's technique during his years of maturity has been greatly enriched. I have profited like all students of Botticelli from these new discoveries, and have revised my book to take account of them, enlarging especially the sections devoted to his technique. My sources are acknowledged in the notes. In revising the sections on the mythological pictures, I have found no reason to change my original interpretations of these great works of art. Indeed the new details revealed by cleaning have only reinforced my original conviction about the true key to their meaning. I have, however, enlarged my account of certain figures in the Primavera, although without forcing on the picture any undue emphasis on ancillary figures and motifs. Elsewhere, too, in my account of these paintings there are enlargements or modifications of detail and in some instances I have reinforced an originally tentative view.

One discovery I made in 1979 about the destroyed Naples portrait has been incorporated into mydiscussion of the early portraits. For the catalogue entries of studio works in the first edition, a more general discussion has been substituted, which appears in the last chapter. Only a selection of illustrations of these pictures has been included--their generally poor quality and monotony of theme did not justify the expense of reproducing more in color. For very different reasons only a selection of the Dante drawings is illustrated. These require a detailed commentary if all are to be reproduced, and this is inappropriate in a general book such as this on the art of Botticelli.

The evidence for a close connection between Lorenzo il Magnifico and Botticelli from Botticelli's youth onward now seems to me even stronger than it was before, in spite of a general skepticism about the importance of Lorenzo's patronage expressed by at least one eminent scholar, and I have emphasized their relationship accordingly. Divergent views will certainly continue to be formulated about this and other questions raised by Botticelli's art. Many of those already expressed since 1978 are cited in the notes for the interest of readers who wish to pursue some aspect of his work. My own views on these new opinions are where necessary briefly indicated. The bibliography has been brought up to date as of July 1988.

As before, I have tried to view Botticelli and the society in which he lived and worked as a whole--as it was in itself and to itself-and to apprehend in their immediate reality its fabric and mentality, with all their intermingled strands of banking and craft, devotion, political life, private culture, domestic and public celebration. The Renaissance, like the eighteenth century, is a period into which dreams of an ideal past, or at any rate of a past more appealing than the present, are often projected. Consequently it is in my view more than usually important not to view it selectively or through a personal or professional temperament that refracts only those aspects of its life that seem to vindicate a romantic-or indeed prosaic--conception of its life and culture.

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