A Dynasty of Painters: the Botticini Family
An entire hall of the Museum of the Collegiate Church of Sant’Andrea gathers, both in quantity and quality, the best of an important Florentine workshop of the second half of the 15th century, the Botticini family of painters active for about 40 years, as documents from Empoli, Valdelsa and Valdarno can testify. Francesco Botticini, the leading painter born in 1466, was a “son of an artist”, since his father Giovanni di Domenico was – as documents record – a painter of «naibi», that is, playing cards. His training, after the early rudiments learned from his father, took place at first in the extremely prolific workshop of Neri di Bicci then passing rapidly to a more up-todate and stimulating workshop, that of Verrocchio, where many personalities, who marked Florentine painting in the second half of the 15th century, were trained.
Francesco’s versatility, with an interest in Flemish naturalism mediated by the purity of the master Verrocchio and enriched with the elegance of Sandro Botticelli and Filippino Lippi, is evident in his mature works here in the Museum of the Collegiate Church: the Annunciation and the Tabernacle of Saint Sebastian, carried out for the Capacci family after 1476.
Between 1484 and 1491 his work on the imposing altar device of the Collegiate Church of Sant’Andrea is documented, the Tabernacle of the Sacrament, commissioned by the Company of Saint Andrew that later would contract his son Raffaello for what must have been, based on the amount paid. a limited intervention. This work is an interesting example of the passage of the workshop from father to son, continuing to work with the same clients: the Company of Saint Andrew of the white robe (Saints John the Baptist and Andrew, parts of an altarpiece), the Company of Saint Andrew of the black robe (a predella with the Deposition, destroyed during the last war), and the Capacci family (Nativity with Saints Martin and Barbara, currently in the Hermitage of Saint Petersburg), vouching for a stable quality of production.
Raffaello continued to work in the areas where his father had carried out his business, like in Fucecchio where, in 1492, Francesco’s commission of the Virgin and Saints, (currently in the Metropolitan Museum in New York) for the Company of the Cross is documented, and where Raffaello painted the Annunciation with Saints Andrew and Francis, currently in the museum, and in Valdelsa (the altarpiece in the Church of Santi Martino e Giusto a Lucardo).
His painting style, less poetic than his father’s, is at times frozen in archaic formulas but, the late production shows a certain modernization towards the art of Francesco Granacci and Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio as well as influences from the styles of Ghirlandaio and Perugino.
The Botticini workshop, like all Florentine workshops at that time, apart from paintings, made banners, designs for the applied arts or for book illustrations.
There were very close connections among painting, engraving and illumination: Francesco himself carried out the Assumption of the Virgin, (formerly in San Pier Maggiore, currently in the National Gallery of London) for the humanist Matteo Palmieri as well as illuminating the codex City of Life for him.
Rosanna Caterina Proto Pisani
in, Museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea a Empoli. Guida alla visita del museo e alla scoperta del territorio, a cura di Rosanna Caterina Proto Pisani. Polistampa 2006