Artist of the Month: Respighi/Botticelli

William O’Connor

For as long as I can remember my love of classical art has gone hand in hand with a love of classical music.  Understanding of one seems to heighten the understanding and appreciation of the other.  Both art forms hold many of the same characteristics: form, color, texture, composition  and not least of all, virtuosic craftsmanship.  So in this installment of Artist of the Month I’m going to highlight two artists, from two different fields of art, separated by centuries, one inspired by the other. 

The inspiration begins with three paintings of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510).  The three paintings are “Primavera (Spring)” (1482), "The Adoration of the Magi” (1500), and  “The Birth of Venus” (1485) 

Botticelli was an early renaissance painter of the italian school, and although the majority of the subjects he painted during his lifetime were of Catholic stories, the newly discovered classical mythologies of the ancients were entering into the artist’s vocabulary along with the mathematics and architecture of the age.  But what do these three paintings have in common?  Birth.  The Birth of Venus emerging from her shell, and Primavera, the embodiment of Spring reveling in the awakening of nature, flanking in the middle the image of the new born Christ celebrated by a host of onlookers, including a self portrait of Botticelli himself.  Being that this is Easter and Spring I thought that his was the perfect opportunity to highlight these works.  The spiritual adoration of Botticelli’s work combined with the ancient celebrations combined these many faiths with Botticelli’s rhapsodic compositions and joyous colors.

Almost 500 years after Botticelli paints these images composer Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) creates the Botticelli Triptych or Trittico Botticelliano inspired by the three paintings in 1927.  The emotion of joy and celebration in Respighi’s work truly captures the mood of the renaissance images.  I hope that watching and listening to these works together will heighten your appreciation for both artists and help illustrate how similar the two art forms truly are.