WE must now go back to the days when Fra
Filippo Lippi painted his pictures and so brought
fame to the Carmine Convent.
There was at that time in Florence a good citizen
called Mariano Filipepi, an honest, well-to-do man,
who had several sons. These sons were all taught
carefully and well trained to do each the work he
chose. But the fourth son, Alessandro, or Sandro
as he was called, was a great trial to his father. He
would settle to no trade or calling. Restless and
uncertain, he turned from one thing to another.
At one time he would work with all his might, and
then again become as idle and fitful as the summer
breeze. He could learn well and quickly when he
chose, but then there were so few things that he
did choose to learn. Music he loved, and he knew
every song of the birds, and anything connected
with flowers was a special joy to him. No one
knew better than he how the different kinds of
roses grew, and how the lilies hung upon their
'And what, I should like to know, is going to be
the use of all this,' the good father would say
impatiently, 'as long as thou takest no pains to read
and write and do thy sums? What am I to do
with such a boy, I wonder?'
 Then in despair the poor man decided to send
Sandro to a neighbour's workshop, to see if perhaps
his hands would work better than his head.
The name of this neighbour was Botticelli, and
he was a goldsmith, and a very excellent master of
his art. He agreed to receive Sandro as his pupil,
so it happened that the boy was called by his
master's name, and was known ever after as Sandro
Sandro worked for some time with his master, and
quickly learned to draw designs for the goldsmith's
In those days painters and goldsmiths worked a
great deal together, and Sandro often saw designs
for pictures and listened to the talk of the artists
who came to his master's shop. Gradually, as he
looked and listened, his mind was made up. He
would become a painter. All his restless longings
and day dreams turned to this. All the music that
floated in the air as he listened to the birds' song,
the gentle dancing motion of the wind among the
trees, all the colours of the flowers, and the graceful
twinings of the rose-stems—all these he would catch
and weave into his pictures. Yes, he would learn
to painst music and motion, and then he would be
'So now thou wilt become a painter,' said his
father, with a hopeless sigh.
Truly this boy was more trouble than all the rest
put together. Here he had just settled down to
learn how to become a good goldsmith, and now he
wished to try his hand at something else. Well, it
 was no use saying 'no.' The boy could never be
made to do anything but what he wished. There was
the Carmelite monk Fra Filippo Lippi, of whom all,
men were talking. It was said he was the greatest
painter in Florence. The boy should have the best
teaching it was possible to give him, and perhaps
this time he would stick to his work.
So Sandro was sent as a pupil to Fra Filippo, and
he soon became a great favourite with the happy,
sunny-tempered master. The quick eye of the
painter soon saw that this was no ordinary pupil.
There was something about Sandro's drawing that
was different to anything that Filippo had ever seen
before. His figures seemed to move, and one
almost heard the wind rustling in their flowing
drapery. Instead of walking, they seemed to be
dancing lightly along with a swaying motion as if to
the rhythm of music. The very rose-leaves the boy
loved to paint, seemed to flutter down to the sound
of a fairy song. Filippo was proud of his pupil.
THE ANGEL FROM TOBIAS AND THE ANGEL. BY BOTTICELLI
'The world will one day hear more of my Sandro
Botticelli,' he said; and, young though the boy was,
he often took him to different places to help him in
So it happened that, in that wonderful spring
of Filippo's life, Sandro too was at Prato, and
worked there with Fra Diamante. And in after
years when the master's little daughter was born,
she was named Alessandra, after the favourite
pupil, to whom was also left the training of little
Now, indeed, Sandros good old father had no
 further cause to complain. The boy had found the
work he was most fitted for, and his name soon
became famous in Florence.
It was the reign of gaiety and pleasure in the city
of Florence at that time. Lorenzo the Magnificent,
the son of Cosimo de Medici, was ruler now, and
his court was the centre of all that was most splendid
and beautiful. Rich dresses, dainty food, music,
gay revels, everything that could give pleasure,
whether good or bad, was there.
Lorenzo, like his father, was always glad to
discover a new painter, and Botticelli soon became a
great favourite at court.
But pictures of saints and angels were somewhat
out of fashion at that time, for people did not care
to be reminded of anything but earthly pleasures.
So Botticelli chose his subjects to please the court,
and for a while ceased to paint his sad-eyed Madonnas.
What mattered to him what his subject was?
Let him but paint his dancing figures, tripping
along in their light flowing garments, keeping time
to the music of his thoughts, and the subject might
be one of the old Greek tales or any other story
that served his purpose.
All the gay court dresses, the rich quaint robes of
the fair ladies, helped to train the young painter's
fancy for flowing draperies and wonderful veils of
filmy transparent gauze.
There was one fair lady especially whom Sandro
loved to paint—the beautiful Simonetta, as she is
First he painted her as Venus, who was born of
 the sea foam. In his picture she floats to the shore
standing in a shell, her golden hair wrapped round
her. The winds behind blow her onward and
scatter pink and red roses through the air. On the
shore stands Spring, who holds out a mantle, flowers
nestling in its folds, ready to enwrap the goddess
when the winds shall have wafted her to land.
Then again we see her in his wonderful picture
of 'Spring,' and in another called 'Mars and Venus.'
She was too great a lady to stoop to the humble
painter, and he perhaps only looked up to her as a
star shining in heaven, far out of the reach of his
love. But he never ceased to worship her from afar.
He never married or cared for any other fair face, just
as the great poet Dante, whom Botticelli admired
so much, dreamed only of his one love, Beatrice.
But Sandro did not go sadly through life sighing
for what could never be his. He was kindly and
good-natured, full of jokes, and ready to make merry
with his pupils in the workshop.
It once happened that one of these pupils, Biagio
by name, had made a copy of one of Sandro's
pictures, a beautiful Madonna surrounded by eight
angels. This he was very anxious to sell, and the
master kindly promised to help him, and in the end
arranged the matter with a citizen of Florence, who
offered to buy it for six gold pieces.
'Well, Biagio,' said Sandro, when his pupil came
into the studio next morning, 'I have sold thy
picture. Let us now hang it up in a good light
that the man who wishes to buy it may see it at its
best. Then will he pay thee the money.'
 Biagio was overjoyed.
'Oh, master,' he cried, 'how well thou hast done.'
Then with hands which trembled with excitement
the pupil arranged the picture in the best light, and
went to fetch the purchaser.
Now meanwhile Botticelli and his other pupils
had made eight caps of scarlet pasteboard such as
the citizens of Florence then wore, and these they
fastened with wax on to the heads of the eight
angels in the picture.
Presently Biagio came back panting with joyful
excitement, and brought with him the citizen, who
knew already of the joke. The poor boy looked at
his picture and then rubbed his eyes. What had
happened? Where were his angels? The picture
must be bewitched, for instead of his angels he saw
only eight citizens in scarlet caps.
He looked wildly around, and then at the face
of the man who had promised to buy the picture.
Of course he would refuse to take such a thing.
But, to his surprise, the citizen looked well pleased,
and even praised the work.
'It is well worth the money,' he said; 'and if thou
wilt return with me to my house, I will pay thee the
six gold pieces.'
Biagio scarcely knew what to do. He was so
puzzled and bewildered he felt as if this must be a
As soon as he could, he rushed back to the studio
to look again at that picture, and then he found
that the red-capped citizens had disappeared, and his
eight angels were there instead. This of course was
 not surprising, as Sandro and his pupils had quickly
removed the wax and taken off the scarlet caps.
'Master, master,' cried the astonished pupil, 'tell
me if I am dreaming, or if I have lost my wits?
When I came in just now, these angels were
Florentine citizens with red caps on their heads, and
now they are angels once more. What may this
'I think, Biagio, that this money must have
turned thy brain round,' said Botticelli gravely. 'If
the angels had looked as thou sayest, dost thou
think the citizen would have bought the picture?'
'That is true,' said Biagio, shaking his head
solemnly; 'and yet I swear I never saw anything
And the poor boy, for many a long day, was
afraid to trust his own eyes, since they had so
basely deceived him.
But the next thing that happened at the studio
did not seem like a joke to the master, for a weaver
of cloth came to live close by, and his looms made
such a noise and such a shaking that Sandro was
deafened, and the house shook so greatly that it was
impossible to paint.
But though Botticelli went to the weaver and
explained all this most courteously, the man
answered roughly, 'Can I not do what I like with
my own house?' So Sandro was angry, and went
away and immediately ordered a great square of
stone to be brought, so big that it filled a waggon.
This he had placed on the top of his wall nearest to
the weaver's house, in such a way that the least
 shake would bring it crashing down into the enemy's
When the weaver saw this he was terrified, and
came round at once to the studio.
'Take down that great stone at once,' he shouted.
'Do you not see that it would crush me and my
workshop if it fell?'
'Not at all,' said Botticelli. 'Why should I take
it down? Can I not do as I like with my own
And this taught the weaver a lesson, so that he
made less noise and shaking, and Sandro had the
best of the joke after all.
There were no idle days of dreaming now for
Sandro. As soon as one picture was finished
another was wanted. Money flowed in, and his
purse was always full of gold, though he emptied it
almost as fast as it was filled. His work for the
Pope at Rome alone was so well paid that the
money should have lasted him for many a long day,
but in his usual careless way he spent it all before
he returned to Florence.
Perhaps it was the gay life at Lorenzo's splendid
court that had taught him to spend money so carelessly,
and to have no thought but to eat, drink, and
be merry. But very soon a change began to steal
over his life.
There was one man in Florence who looked with
sad condemning eyes on all the pleasure-loving
crowd that thronged the court of Lorenzo the
Magnificent. In the peaceful convent of San
Marco, whose walls the angel-painter had covered
 with pictures 'like windows into heaven,' the
stern monk Savonarola was grieving over the sin
and vanity that went on around him. He loved
Florence with all his heart, and he could not bear
the thought that she was forgetting, in the whirl of
pleasure, all that was good and pure and worth the
Then, like a battle-cry, his voice sounded through
the city, and roused the people from their foolish
dreams of ease and pleasure. Every one flocked to
the great cathedral to hear Savonarola preach, and
Sandro Botticelli left for a while his studio and his
painting and became a follower of the great preacher.
Never again did he paint those pictures of earthly
subjects which had so delighted Lorenzo. When he
once more returned to his work, it was to paint his
sad-eyed Madonnas; and the music which still floated
through his visions was now like the song of angels.
The boys of Florence especially had grown wild
and rough during the reign of pleasure, and they
were the terror of the city during carnival time.
They would carry long poles, or 'stili,' and bar the
streets across, demanding money before they would
let the people pass. This money they spent on
drinking and feasting, and at night they set up
great trees in the squares or wider streets and
lighted huge bonfires around them. Then would
begin a terrible fight with stones, and many of the
boys were hurt, and some even killed.
No one had been able to put a stop to this until
Savonarola made up his mind that it should cease.
Then, as if by magic, all was changed.
 Instead of the rough game of 'stili,' there were
altars put up at the corners of the streets, and the
boys begged money of the passers-by, not for their
feasts, but for the poor.
'You shall not miss your bonfire,' said Savonarola;
'but instead of a tree you shall burn up vain and
useless things, and so purify the city.'
So the children went round and collected all the
'vanities,' as they were called—wigs and masks and
carnival dresses, foolish songs, bad books, and evil
pictures; all were heaped high and then lighted to
make one great bonfire.
Some people think that perhaps Sandro threw
into the Bonfire of Vanities some of his own beautiful
pictures, but that we cannot tell.
Then came the sad time when the people, who at
one time would have made Savonarola their king,
turned against him, in the same fickle way that
crowds will ever turn. And then the great preacher,
who had spent his life trying to help and teach them,
and to do them good, was burned in the great
square of that city which he had loved so dearly.
After this it was long before Botticelli cared to
paint again. He was old and weary now, poor and
sad, sick of that world which had treated with such
cruelty the master whom he loved.
One last picture he painted to show the triumph
of good over evil. Not with the sword or the might
of great power is the triumph won, says Sandro to
us by this picture, but by the little hand of the
Christ Child, conquering by love and drawing all
men to Him. This Adoration of the Magi is in
 our own National Gallery in London, and is the
only painting which Botticelli ever signed.
'I, Alessandro, painted this picture during the
troubles of Italy ... when the devil was let loose
for the space of three and a half years. Afterwards
shall he be chained, and we shall see him trodden
down as in this picture.'
It is evident that Botticelli meant by this those
sad years of struggle against evil which ended in
the martyrdom of the great preacher, and he has
placed Savonarola among the crowd of worshippers
drawn to His feet by the Infant Christ.
It is sad to think of those last days when Sandro
was too old and too weary to paint. He who had
loved to make his figures move with dancing feet, was
now obliged to walk with crutches. The roses and
lilies of spring were faded now, and instead of the
music of his youth he heard only the sound of harsh,
ungrateful voices, in the flowerless days of poverty
and old age.
There is always something sad too about his
pictures, but through the sadness, if we listen, we
may hear the angel-song, and understand it better if
we have in our minds the prayer which Botticelli
left for us.
'Oh, King of Wings and Lord of Lords, who
alone rulest always in eternity, and who correctest
all our wanderings, giver of melody to the choir
of angels, listen Thou a little to our bitter grief, and
come and rule us, oh Thou highest King, with Thy
love which is so sweet.'
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