Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Botticelli: part renaissance genius, part practical joker

Botticelli: part renaissance genius, part practical joker
Tuscany’s Sandro Botticelli was one of the most respected painters of the early renaissance. His works, including The Birth of Venus, Adoration of the Magi and Primavera, are revered for their sublime take on mythological and religious stories. The Birth of Venus is so iconic that even pop-art’s Andy Warhol created a version.

But while Botticelli’s paintings often took a somber tone, in reality, the man himself was a cheerful soul. Take his name for example. He was christened Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi. It was his brother who was given the nickname ‘Botticelli’, unkindly likening his portly stature to that of a big round barrel. The Botticelli nickname spread to the whole family and rather than dispute it, Sandro seemed more than happy to make it his own.

He had a wicked sense of humor too. A weaver moved into the house next door to Botticelli. Day and night he’d beat wooden frames for his looms, making the whole house shake. When a sleep-deprived Botticelli challenged the weaver, he was told in no uncertain terms that he ‘could do as he wants in his own house’. So as a clever solution, Botticelli built a wall of loose heavy stone between their properties. The wall had no cement and was balanced towards the weaver’s house. Should the vibrations get too much, the wall would simply topple and damage the weaver’s property.

When the weaver complained, Botticelli simply smiled and said “I can do as I wish on my property.” As a result, the wall stood firm and the weaver grew much more gentle with his frame-making.