It is with great pleasure (and a whole lot of squirmming, if you know what I mean) that I introduce today’s guest… Ladies, I give you Professor Gabriel O. Emerson…
“Botticelli’s Muse,” by Professor Gabriel O. Emerson, Associate Professor of Italian Studies, University of Toronto.
One of my favourite artists is Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510). He lived in Florence and painted under the patronage of the famous Medici family. I have reproductions of a number of his works in my private collection.
I’m drawn to his artistry for many reasons, foremost of which is his talent for celebrating the female form. Even in his most erotic portrayals, he captures a woman’s vulnerability along with her sensuality. In a word, I find his works breathtaking.
While he was alive, he sketched illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. While he is, perhaps, best known for his intriguing pictures of Hell, I’ve always had a fondness for his drawings of Beatrice.
Beatrice explains to Dante the principles of ecclesiastical dispensation from vows
While Dante adored and celebrated Beatrice, Botticelli was inspired by Simonetta Vespucci (1453-1476), the wife of Marco Vespucci. She was considered to be very beautiful and many men in the city of Florence admired her, including Botticelli. She was so beautiful, they referred to her as La Bella Simonetta.
Portrait of a Young Woman
Although the figure in the painting above is described only as a young woman, it is said that this is a portrait of Simonetta. Although Botticelli was captivated by her, he never entered into a relationship with her. She was a married woman, who was rumoured to have been the mistress of Guiliano de Medici. Botticelli’s livelihood if not his life rested in the hands of the Medici family. So for him, Simonetta was unattainable.