When we look at great masterpieces, we cannot help but notice how perfect they are and how much attention has been paid to the details. Obviously, we link this kind of artistic effort to an incredibly austere behaviour…
Well, it’s not always like that: did you know, for instance, that Botticelli was a renowned prankster among his contemporaries? Apparently, he loved to prank his friends and also to hide “inner jokes” inside his beautiful paintings.
One of the several victims of his pranks was an apprentice of his: he had painted a tondo for a commission, but the night before the buyer came to see it, Botticelli – in agreement with the buyer – decided to glue some red berets on the heads of the angels in the painting. When his apprentice saw it, the next morning, he felt like he was going crazy, especially because after the meeting Botticelli peeled the caps off the tondo, letting him believe that he had imagined everything.
Another one of his jokes was discovered not long ago: according to a recent study on his works, the 1480 fresco painting Saint Augustine in His Study, which you can find in the church of Ognissanti in Florence, hides a complete sentence among the fake ones.
Apparently, a friar of the Humiliati Order that the painter knew, was so tempted by earthly things that he ran away, causing a scandal among the people of his time. This is why Botticelli hid the sentence: “Dov’è fra Martino? È scaphato. E dov’è andato? È andato fuor dela Porta al Prato” (“Where’s brother Martino? He’s fled. And where did he go? he went out through the Porta a Prato”).
Apart from being a prankster, the great artist was also super-witty: according to some chronicles of the time, he once had a neighbour, a weaver, whose looms made a terrible noise, disturbing him. When he asked the weaver to be more gentle, he answered that, in his own home, he could do whatever he wanted.
In response, Botticelli put a heavy stone on the wall between his house and the weaver’s, so that every vibration provoked by the noise could cause the stone to fall on the neighbour’s head. And, when he was asked to take it away, he answered: “It’s my home: I can do whatever I want”.
Talk about revenge…