Sandro Botticelli, the enigmatic painter and portrait artist, has always felt an affinity with beauty. Having studied with the infamous Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli inherited much of his celebrated "contour style" from the former monk. Where Lippi left off, though, Sandro, 52, is just beginning....

Interview with

M: How old were you when you first knew you wanted to paint?

S.B.: Oh, very young. My Dad wanted me to be a goldsmith, and he apprenticed me to one--to tell the truth, I think he just wanted me out of the house. I attend weekly ACOA meetings to deal with my issues of rage and abandonment.

M: So you joined forces with Filippo Lippi?

S.B.: Yes, and let me tell you, that man was a genius. He may not have been a virtuous monk, but he sure could paint. His Madonna and Child is still the best. And he had a sense of humor--that's always a plus.

M: What led you to take the courageous step of painting a nude female figure?

S.B.: Oh, that was Lorenzo's idea. Venus, you know, was his fantasy girl.

M: Now, I have to ask, America is dying to know--Did you have an affair with Ms. Vespucci?

S.B.: Well, Simonetta was a gorgeous girl. I loved her dearly. But it was more of an avuncular thing. I mean, we tried it out a few times, but the whole thing just fizzled. She was very ambitious, poor kid. And no, contrary to popular belief, it wasn't the nude modelling that gave her TB. It was the party mentality. She was unstoppable--I once saw her down two flagons of cheap Chianti in less than an hour.

M: Tell us about your relationship with Lorenzo. Was his Neo-Platonic philosophy a big influence?

S.B.: Well, I was very impressionable as a youth. The life of the Medici court was very alluring. I didn't have much direction, and those guys sure sounded convincing. Man as the center of the universe, rebirth of classical thought--it was a pretty idea. I didn't know how far from the path of righteousness they were leading me.

M: Ah, yes. Tell us about Savonarola and your spiritual rebirth. Everyone was a little surprised that an artist of your known philosophical doctrines would become, as they say, "born again."

S.B.: What can I say, I found The Light. Let me ask you a question. Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour?

M: Uh....

S.B.: I'll tell you what, you can come with me tonight to hear Savonarola preach at the Crystal Cathedral. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance. He doesn't get to L.A. very often. I'm telling you, this is the man. I've come to repent my sinful ways. All those pagan paintings, The Birth of Venus, Primavera,  all that pre-Christian mumbo-jumbo. It's nothing but Madonnas and angels for me, from here on out, man.