This is the painting which gave Botticelli his opportunity and endowed him with a nearly supernatural aura, which he is perhaps the first of the Renaissance to have had: that of the "cherished son of the gods" and of "divine prodigy". This type of halo, of mandorla which surrounded Botticelli brought him the fame which has not faltered to this day. This is a very young artist's first painting, which all of Florence went to see, enabling him to advantage of rather extraordinary publicity opportunities. This allegorical painting is 1.75 m (69") high and was painted to serve as a chair back. One of the great Commercial Courts of the busy city of Renaissance Florence, the Court of the Mercanzia, redecorated its premises, ordered new stalls and came up with the idea, very Renaissance, moreover, to decorate the tall chair backs with painted compositions representing the great virtues. A very young Botticelli received the commission for the foremost virtue: Fortitude. When the Court was dissolved in 1771, the work was window transferred to the Academia, where it languished in the attic; from there, it went to the Uffizi, where it remained in custody, and it was not until 1863 that it was rediscovered and exhibited where it is today: amongst the masterpieces of the first Renaissance. Curiously enough, it is not yet with the Uffizi Gallery's collection of Botticelli's works, three rooms before, but with the set of seven chair backs, where we shall replace it later.
It is 1470, and we are in Florence. Barely fifty years have passed since
last week's lecture, yet the world has nearly completely turned; we shall,
as usual, pick up the chapters of Western and Eastern history to appraise
what was going on while Sandro Botticelli was painting Fortitude.
World Events in 1470: in France, England, in Spain, the Ottoman Empire, China, and Japan.
The Florence and Medicis page remains, which we shall open now, before devoting ourselves to his biography, to two commissioned works the Lemmi Villa frescos and those in the Sistine Chapel. We shall then come back to the Allegory of Fortitude and then approach his work : the religious works, including the Mystical Nativity, and the secular works, in particular the Birth of Venus and Spring, without neglecting the Story of Nastagio degli Onesti. Finally, we shall admire the drawings which will bring us to the conclusion of today's lecture on Sandro Botticelli.