The Birth of Venus.
The Mystical Nativity.
These are among the most famous of the works of Sandro Botticelli, Renaissance artist who died 502 years ago—on May 17, 1510. Botticelli was a contemporary of Michelangelo (who enlisted Botticelli to paint part of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel) and Leonardo da Vinci. He was considered one of the best painters of the 15th century in Italy, and worked for the House of Medici political dynasty.
Botticelli never wed, and one common theory is that he felt an unrequited love for the married Simonetta Vespucci, wife of famed navigator Amerigo Vespucci who was the first ship pilot to reach the Americas. Simonetta was a great beauty and served as a model for the leading painters of her day, most notably Botticelli. She is the central figure in Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera.” Botticelli requested that upon his death, he should be buried at Simonetta’s feet in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence. His wish was carried out in 1510, some 34 years later; he is buried at the Abbazia Di Ognissanti (shown below).