Botticelli, christened Alessandro Filipepi and known as Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), never saw Paris, which in his day was still medieval, its own renaissance coming later than Italy’s. For Botticelli and for many others, his native Florence was the center of the world, then brimming with brilliant artists and craftsmen as well as humanists in the accurate sense of the word, men such as Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, all busy rediscovering whatever they could unearth of the ancient world. Supporting these artists and scholars were enlightened patrons belonging to prosperous banking families, the Medici most prominent among them. Lorenzo de’ Medici, called Lorenzo the Magnificent, was himself a talented poet in addition to being immersed in humanist studies. Botticelli, born in modest circumstances, the son of a tanner who had had his son trained as a goldsmith—which...


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