Botticelli’s Madonna del Magnificant

Sandro Botticelli was a Renaissance painter in Quattrocento (fifteenth century) Italy. He is well known for mythological artworks, since he created them extensively. He is also known for his religious artworks.

Although there are many works by Botticelli that I would love to go over, today I am only going to talk about the Madonna del Magnificant created in 1482 to 1485.

Botticelli, Madonna del Magnificant, 1482-1485

I’m extremely fascinated by this artwork, especially because of the way the painting accommodates to the circular shape. Though this was created years after Botticelli’s work, the shape of this painting reminds me of Self- Portrait in a Convex Mirror by Parmigianino, 1524.

This painting shows the Virgin and Child with five angels surrounded. Mary is represented as a writer and an author, which is unique because many artists don’t depict Mary this way. Two angels are either holding her crown, or crowning her; while three other angels appear to be concentrating on what Mary is doing. I’m not sure whether baby Jesus is looking at Mary or at the Heavens. I think that he is looking up to God. There is something above Mary’s head, and I’m not sure if it’s a reference to the Eucharist or the Holy Spirit, but baby Jesus appears to be looking up there.

Baby Jesus is also putting his right hand onto Mary’s right hand, almost as though Jesus wants to help Mary. In his and Mary’s left hand, there is a pomegranate. This can be a reference to many symbols: for one, it could be a reference to the passion of Christ. It can also be a reference to Resurrection of Christ: like the seeds are bursting through the fruit, so did Christ burst through the tomb into Heaven. Pomegranates can also be seen after Pentecost in Churches; possibly being a reminder of Christ’s Resurrection and Passion.

The text that Mary is writing here is from the Gospel of Luke. The left side is from Luke 1:76-79, which is what Zaccharias said on the day that John the Baptist was born. The right side of the book is from Luke 1:46-55, which is a song of praise sung by Mary when she traveled with Elizabeth (her cousin) after having Christ.

I also wanted to point out two things. One of them is that in his lifetime, Botticelli had an apprenticeship with Fra Filippo Lippi. I thought this was fascinating because Botticelli’s work is slightly similar to that of Lippi’s. For instance, compare Lippi’s Madonna and Child with Angels from 1460-1465 and Botticelli’s The Virgin and Child with the Young St. John the Baptist and Two Angels from 1445-1510. The figures in both works have similar noses and eyes. Also, both artists use see through material to add a delicate quality to the works, and the women in both these works are similarly beautiful.

Lastly (the second point), here is a great video about the Renaissance if anyone is interested! In this, it gives some background on the time period. It also talks about how this time period focused on “selling beauty, truth, and wisdom,” almost like a modern day advertisement.


Feature Image is potential Self-Portrait of Botticelli from the Adoration of the Magi from 3.bp.blogspot.com

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