In the church of Ss. Salvatore di Ognissanti there is a fresco of the Madonna della Misericordia (c.1472) by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94). Sheltering under the Madonna's mantle are members of the Vespucci family.
Directly below the Madonna's right hand, kneels a woman (distinguished by her ornate hair style) thought by many to be Simonetta Cattaneo (1453-76), the wife of Marco Vespucci. Known as la bella Simonetta, she was reputedly the most beautiful woman of her day.
Romantics like to think she was the model for Sandro Botticelli's images of Venus in his two celebrated paintings of the classical goddess, which hang in the Gallerie degli Uffizi.
Simonetta Cattaneo was born in the Ligurian town of Porto Venere in 1453 and fifteen years later she moved to Florence to marry Marco Vespucci (a relative of the famous navigator, Amerigo Vespucci). Simonetta was only twenty-three years old when she died of consumption and was interred in the Chiesa di Ognissanti, the Vespucci family's parish church.
Botticelli (1444/5-1510), who is thought to have fallen in love with Simonetta, expressed the wish that he be buried at the foot of her grave when he died. The artist was born in the same parish as the Vespucci family and lived for much of his life in a house in Via della Porcellana, which lies a short distance from the church.
Unfortunately, the location of the graves of both Botticelli and Simonetta have been lost. The sepulchral slab of Botticelli's family, in the Cappella di San Pietro d’Alcantara, only dates back to 1937.
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