Paris (AFP)

Where did Sandro Botticelli get his inspiration from?

How did his workshop work?

How did he manage to renew himself?

Twenty years after the last Parisian retrospective devoted to the virtuoso of the Italian Renaissance, an exhibition lifts the veil on the painter's "physical and mental workshop".

The fruit of five years of work, this exhibition, which opened on Friday at the Jacquemart-André museum, brings together around forty works by the Florentine artist: from his beginnings in Filippo Lippi's studio to his latest works, marked by the seal of austerity advocated by the preacher Savonarola.

"A return to basics," historian Ana Debenedetti, co-curator of the event, told AFP.

She wanted to show Botticelli's role as trainer but also as entrepreneur, through his studio, a place that has become legendary from the Quattrocento and a veritable "laboratory of ideas" where Italian artists have come to train.

Adored during his lifetime, Alessandro Filipepi aka Sandro Botticelli, was born in 1445 in Florence.

A major 15th century Italian painter, he was the protégé of the Medici family.

However, he fell into oblivion after his death in 1510, supplanted by Michelangelo and Raphael.

An oversight that will last for four centuries.

His paintings were not rediscovered until the 19th century.

"The Birth of Venus" and "Spring" are now among the most famous in the history of painting.

Exhibited at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, they could not make the trip to Paris.

A visitor admires a work by Sandro Botticelli at the Jacquemart-André museum, September 9, 2021 in Paris Christophe ARCHAMBAULT AFP

But the exhibition at the Jacquemart-André museum presents many paintings, including "La Belle Simonetta" or two "Venus pudica", as well as many drawings.

Along the way, the visitor discovers that the canvases coming out of Botticelli's studio were in reality a "collaborative effort", which questions the notion of an original work as it is understood today.

Visitors admire works by Sandro Botticelli at the Jacquemart-André museum, September 9, 2021 in Paris Christophe ARCHAMBAULT AFP

Sandro Botticelli was not a solitary genius: he was surrounded by a host of "collaborators", talented artists who assisted him in the work of reproduction and copying, so necessary for the good - economic - progress of the workshop.

- "Genius of invention" -

But beware, warns the historian, marketing did not mean assembly line work.

"It was constantly necessary to renew itself, the copy or the variant had to be a reinterpretation of the original work", she analyzes, specifying that each painting which left the workshop had been supervised by the master.

There are many "pure and hard Botticelli" but "if you take emblematic works like + The Spring + or + The Birth of Venus +, there are inevitably small hands in addition, it was not possible to do otherwise", insists the historian.

A visitor admires a work by Sandro Botticelli at the Jacquemart-André museum, September 9, 2021 in Paris Christophe ARCHAMBAULT AFP

These little hands, whose job was to blend their features into those of the master, are artists "who are good but lack the genius of invention, who cannot compose" and struggle to lead a career. independent.

"This genius of invention, Sandro Botticelli had", underlines the co-curator of the exhibition.

The artist found inspiration in life in Florence, frequented painters, poets and philosophers.

These meetings nourished his creations which he felt that in addition to their aestheticism, they should arouse "curiosity and discussion" among his clients, mainly patrician families.

Like his contemporaries and those who succeeded him, Sandro Botticelli drew heavily on the mythological and religious imagination.

But in his own way and with his own eyes.

Like the painting "La Belle Simonetta", where the pendant worn by the young woman refers to the seal of Nero, originally carved in carnelian, and which the artist transformed into a cameo.

A visitor photographs a work by Sandro Botticelli at the Jacquemart-André museum, September 9, 2021 in Paris Christophe ARCHAMBAULT AFP

But above all, recalls the historian, Sandro Botticelli is the painter who created, and brought up to date, the genre of the female nude with his representations of the Roman goddess Venus.

"An almost revolutionary work for Italy and Europe of the 15th century".

© 2021 AFP

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