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PAGE 2

Botticelli
by [?]

Don’t you know how Rembrandt painted the “Christ at Emmaus”? I do. I am that man.

Shortly after Sandro Botticelli had painted that distinctly pagan picture, “The Birth of Venus,” he equalized matters, eased conscience and silenced the critics, by producing a beautiful Madonna, surrounded by a circle of singing angels. Yet George Eliot writes that there were wiseacres who shook their heads and said: “This Madonna is the work of some good monk–only a man who is deeply religious could put that look of exquisite tenderness and sympathy in a woman’s face. Some one is trying to save Sandro’s reputation, and win him back from his wayward ways.”

In the lives of Botticelli and Rembrandt there is a close similarity. In temperament as well as in experience they seem to parallel each other. In boyhood Botticelli and Rembrandt were dull, perverse, wilful. Both were given up by teachers and parents as hopelessly handicapped by stupidity. Botticelli’s father, seeing that the boy made no progress at school, apprenticed him to a metalworker. The lad showed the esteem in which he held his parent by dropping the family name of Filipepi and assuming the name of Botticelli, the name of his employer.

Rembrandt’s father thought his boy might make a fair miller, but beyond this his ambition never soared. Botticelli and Rembrandt were splendid animals. The many pictures of Rembrandt, painted by himself, show great physical vigor and vital power.

The picture of Botticelli, by himself, in the “Adoration of the Magi,” reveals a powerful physique and a striking personality. The man is as fine as an Aztec, as strong and self-reliant as a cliff- dweller. Character and habit are revealed in the jaw–the teeth of the Aztecs were made to grind corn in the kernel, and as long as they continued grinding dried corn in the kernel, they had good teeth. Dentists were not required until men began to feed on mush.

Botticelli had broad, strong, square jaws, wide nostrils, full lips, large eyes set wide apart, forehead rather low and sloping, and a columnar neck that rose right out of his spine. A man with such a neck can “stand punishment”–and give it. Such a neck is only seen once in a thousand times. Men with such necks have been mothered by women who bore burdens balanced on their heads, boycotted the corsetier, and eschewed all deadly French heels.

Do you know the face of Oliver Goldsmith, the droop of the head, the receding chin and the bulging forehead? Well, Botticelli’s face was the antithesis of this.

Most of the truly great artists have been men of this Stone Age– quality men who dared. Michelangelo was the pure type: Titian who lived a century (lacking one year) was another. Leonardo was the same fine savage (who in some miraculous way also possessed the grace of a courtier). Franz Hals, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and Botticelli were all men of fierce appetites and heroic physiques. They had animality plus that would have carried them across the century-mark, had they not drawn checks on futurity, in a belief that their bank- balance was unlimited.

Botticelli and Rembrandt kept step in their history, both receiving instant recognition in early life and becoming rich. Then fashion and society turned against them–the tide of popularity began to ebb. One reinforced his genius with strong drink, and the other became intoxicated with religious enthusiasm. Finally, both begged alms in the public streets; and the bones of each filled a pauper’s grave.

Ruskin unearthed Botticelli (Just as he discovered Turner), and gave him to the Preraphaelites, who fell down and worshiped him. Whether we would have had Burne-Jones without Botticelli is a grave question, and anyway it would have been another Burne-Jones. There would have been no processions of tall, lissome, melancholy beauties wending their way to nowhere, were it not for the “Spring.” Ruskin held up the picture, and the Preraphaelites got them to their easels. At once all original “Botticellis” were gotten out, “restored” and reframed. The prices doubled, trebled, quadrupled, as the brokers scoured Europe. By the year Eighteen Hundred Eighty-six every “Botticelli” had found a home in some public institution or gallery, and no lure of gold could bring one forth.