By Martina Bollini

On 16 January 1498 Francesco Botticini died in Florence, where he was born in 1446. Son of a Giovanni di Domenico, a painter of playing cards, Francesco entered the prolific workshop of Neri di Bicci at the age of 13. As recorded by Neri himself in his Ricordanze, Francesco flew the workshop the following year, in 1460. In 1469 the painter was asked to value a work of his old master Neri, suggesting that Francesco already was an established master by then. From 1471 he was a member of the Confraternity of the Archangel Raphael at the Church of Santo Spirito and in 1472 he was inscribed in the Confraternity of Saint Luke.

An eclectic artist, Botticini was influenced by the leading Florentine painters of his day, including Cosimo Rosselli, Andrea del Verrocchio, and Sandro Botticelli. Among his works stands out the monumental The Assumption of the Virgin, which served as the altarpiece in the burial chapel in S. Pier Maggiore, Florence. The painting was commissioned by the humanist Matteo Palmieri, depicted kneeling on the left opposite his wife Niccolosa. The unusual representation of the saints, incorporated into the ranks of angels, is thought to reflect Palmieri’s theological speculations, as exposed in his poem Città di Vita, which came to be regarded as heretical.

Botticini’s only documented work, though, is a tabernacle in Empoli, commissioned in 1484 and completed in 1504 by his son Raffaele.

Reference: Anna Padoa Rizzo, Botticini, Francesco, in Grove Art Online, Oxford art Online.

Further reading: Jennifer Sliwka, Visions of Paradise: Botticini’s Palmieri Altarpiece, exhibition catalogue, London: National Gallery, 2016.

Virgin adoring the child, 15th century, tempera with gold on panel, Cambridge: The Fitzwilliam Museum.

Saint Cecilia between Saint Valerian and Saint Tiburtius with a Donor, ca. 1470, tempera on panel, Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

The assumption of the Virgin, ca. 1475-6, tempera on wood, London: The National Gallery of Art.

The Three Archangels and Tobias, 15th century, tempera on wood, Florence: Uffizi Gallery.

Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and Angels, 15th century, tempera on wood, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of art.

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