Monday, December 12, 2011

The people behind the portraits. 3: Simonetta Vespucci.




The thing about renaissance artists is that they didn't care much about getting a likeness. It is thought that artists would flatter the attractive elements of their sitter's faces to the point that it no longer looked like them .


In real life she was quite ugly.


So while its is possible to speculate. No one will ever be sure that the Goddess Venus/Aphrodite in Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" was Simonetta Vespucci, and critics have argued the point, pointlessly, for centuries.

I believe that the chances are good that it is her. Due to the fact the he wasn't the only one who painted her and so we have a fair idea of what she looked like. Although most portraits are posthumous and her appearance had probably become more legendary than accurately remembered.

"Many's the day she'd be seen wandering the fields topless with a snake 'round her neck.."

One thing is pretty much certain, and that is that Botticelli painted one (possibly the only surviving) portrait of her while she was alive.





Simonetta Vespucci ( who married a cousin of Amerigo Vespucci.) Was the belle of Florence. Possibly because she was the only woman in italy who didn't shave her eyebrows. She became very popular with the Medici brothers. Lorenzo the magnificent,

Isn't he wonderful?

and Giuliano.


"Just Giuliano" as he was dubbed by historians.




Giuliano ' The sporty one', once flew a banner featuring her portrait, also by Botticelli, at a jousting tournament, but had an unfortunate accident soon after, involving an assassin's sword and his face.

Simonetta died at the age of 22 of an illness. Most likely TB. Reportedly she had a funeral procession of thousands. Which only goes to show that the public care more when beautiful people die.

After their deaths Lorenzo;

Here he is again. Magnificent!

commissioned Botticelli to paint her and Giuliano as Venus and Mars. Complete with his big lance.


No word on how her husband felt about any of this.





Many historians rubbished the idea that Botticelli was in love with her, and the theory that Simonetta's face was repeated in his most famous work was dismissed by Felipe Fernández-Armesto as ''Romantic nonsense".

"The vulgar assumption, for instance, that she was Botticelli's model for all his famous beauties seems to be based on no better grounds than the feeling that the most beautiful woman of the day ought to have modelled for the most sensitive painter."



He's probably right






So what if his paintings are a veritable "Where's Wally?" of Simonetta look-alikes.













But what about the fact that , on his deathbed, Botticelli asked to be buried at her feet at Church of Ognissanti??

Romantic nonsense?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bonjour,
Merci pour ce très subtil commentaire, et pour le happening de la fin (in cauda non est venenum sed versutia et ingenium). Vous êtes un esrpit délicat et racé.
Bravo !
Jacques,
amateur d'art et donc de Botticelli, et amoureux de Simonetta Vespucci

Di said...

Merci beaucoup Jacques.

Calliope said...

Actually, the "fact" that he asked to be buried in Ognissanti because Simonetta was also buried there is a very popular thing, but there is no documentation that proves it. It's just something people say, and like to say, and what's more, no one actually knows who and when came up with this story. The only certain fact about his burial place, in Ognissanti, is that his family's tomb was there. His father and his brothers all passed away before him. And I think that it's much more realistic to think he now is there because that's where his whole family was buried.
That's one of the reasons why many historians don't even consider this story to possibly be true.

Anyway, your post was very well written and I found it extremely pleasurable to read! Good job!