Ever wondered what the stories are behind a famous painting?
Well, there are plenty of stories behind the Monna Lisa portrait, but what about others, less famous or less talked about.
This beauty for example
This painting (The Birth of Venus is a painting by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli, probably made in mid 1480), is as famous as Leonardo’s Monna Lisa.
But who was the model?
Simonetta Vespucci nee Cattaneo was born in Genoa in 1476, a noblewoman among the most famous of the Renaissance.
In April of 1469, just shy of her sweet sixteen, Simonetta married Marco Vespucci, a banker and a distant cousin of the navigator famous “Amerigo,” from whom America got its name.
After the marriage, the couple settled in Florence, the city of the Vespucci family. The Medicis (Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano), welcomed the spouses in the Medici palace and organized a sumptuous party to honor the happy couple.
Simonetta caught everybody’s eye, first, of course, Sandro Botticelli, and she becomes his Muse, who made her eternal in his most famous paintings.
We see her in the guise of the goddess Venus in the Birth of Venus, or in one of the Three Graces (the one in the center) in the allegory of Primavera, and many others.
Giuliano de Medicis
Her beauty and charm had already conquered everyone in Florence, above all Giuliano de Medicis, who fell in love with her and become her lover (marriages were not taken very seriously back then 😉).
Simonetta’s existence, unfortunately, was a real fleeting meteor, because only a few years later, on April 26, 1476, Simonetta died of either consumption or the plague. She was only twenty-three years old. For her sad disappearance Lorenzo the Magnificent wrote a sonnet where he imagines she becomes a star in the sky to enrich the firmament.
it is said that after Simonetta’s death Giuliano did not love anyone else. Although, Giuliano himself dies tragically only two years later.
Lucrezia is another beautiful model, her (love) story is even more interesting than Simonetta’s.
Around 1456 the Florentine Brother (and painter), Filippo Lippi, now fifty years old and chaplain of the Convent of Santa Margherita di Prato, was commissioned to make an altarpiece depicting “The Madonna and St. Thomas“.
To paint the face of Santa Margherita, Lippi asked the Abbess for a nun as a model.
The choice fell on the beautiful Lucrezia Buti, then only twenty years old (she is the girl on the far left, below).
The artist—not necessarily a humble Franciscan Brother—but with a jovial and exuberant character soon entered into confidence with the girl, who revealed to him that she was deeply unhappy: she had been forced to become a nun because of the poverty of the family of origin.
The Happy Couple
Both, Brother Filippo and Sister Lucrezia abandoned their religious ambitions and lived together, and eventually married. Precursors of the times and regardless of the gossips, Filippo and Lucrezia always remained a de facto happy family, They had two children: Filippino and Alessandra.
Filippino, often used as a baby Jesus model, also became a famous painter.