BOTTICELLI, Sandro
(b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)

A Young Man Being Introduced to the Seven Liberal Arts

c. 1484
Fresco transferred to canvas, 238 x 284 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The only secular frescoes by Botticelli that still exist were discovered 1873, in the Villa Lemmi, at the foot of the Careggi Hill, close to a villa of Cosimo de Medici. They had been concealed under old coats of paint for centuries. Villa Lemmi belonged to the Tornabuoni family, friend of the Medici. It is supposed the frescoes were executed to commemorate the marriage of Lorenzo Tornabuoni and Giovanna degli Albizzi.

The frescoes are in a very poor state of preservation, because they were damaged when taken down from the wall. Two of the three fragments found were transferred to canvas and later sold to the Louvre in Paris. The two compositions were originally separated only by a window.

One of the fragments probably represents Venus and the Three Graces Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman, the other A Young Man Being Introduced to the Seven Liberal Arts.

Even in this poor condition, the two frescoes still have some of the elegance which is the feature of Botticelli's best compositions. The fact that the figures cannot be entirely identified in no way detracts from their distant charm. It is, however, assumed that this is an allegorical celebration for a newly married couple. Even though the young man is obviously being led towards the female allegories of the seven liberal arts, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, grammar, geometry, astronomy and music, it is unclear who is leading him there.