BotticelliAlessandro di Mariano Filipepi, born in 1444 or 1445. He was apparently called ‘Botticelli’ after his elder brother Giovanni (a successful marriage broker), who was built like a barrel (botte). His father Mariano di Vanni was a tanner who lived in the Borgo Ognissanti and then the Via del Porcellana in Florence. Botticelli was probably apprenticed first to one of his brothers, Antonio, who was a goldsmith, and later to Fra Filippo Lippi, who was then working mainly in Prato. By June 1472 he was registered as a painter with the Compagnia di San Luca with an assistant of his own (Filippino Lippi, son of Filippo). He seems to have spent his entire career in Florence, apart from a brief visit to Pisa in 1474 (when he left unfinished a fresco for the Camposanto), a visit to Rome in 1481-82 (to paint frescoes in the Sistine Chapel) and a visit to Spedaletto, near Volterra, in about 1490-91 (to help decorate Lorenzo de’ Medici’s villa).
The chronology of his works is uncertain: few are documented and only one (the Mystic Nativity of 1500-1 in the National Gallery, London) is signed and dated. A substantial number of Madonnas, mainly derived from compositions by Fra Filippo, have been ascribed to his youthful period; but these vary widely in quality and some are probably rather by minor followers of Fra Filippo or Verrocchio. His earliest documented work is the Fortezza (‘Fortitude’) of June-August 1470 in the Uffizi. The 1470s saw the beginning of his close relationship with the Medici family. A tournament banner, representing ‘a life-size Pallas on a shield wreathed with fiery branches’, was designed for Giuliano de’ Medici’s famous joust held in the Piazza of Santa Croce in January 1475, but is now lost. Lifelike effigies frescoed above the door of the Dogana next to the Palazzo Vecchio, depicting rebel leaders hanged after the failed Pazzi conspiracy of April 1478, were obliterated after the flight of the Medici in November 1494. The famous mythological pictures, which reflect the ideas of neo-Platonists in the Medicean circle, probably date entirely from the 1480s. Botticelli’s late works show a marked shift to a more austere, emotionally intense, deliberately archaic style, with elongated figures, strained and nervous movement and artificial abstract settings. This stylistic change has been popularly attributed to the influence of Girolamo Savonarola’s terrifying sermons, but documentary evidence on Botticelli’s support for the visionary Dominican preacher is ambiguous. His last documented work was an altarpiece commissioned in 1505 for a confraternity at Montelupo (a small town near Empoli).
Botticelli ran a busy workshop and there are many replicas by different hands of Madonnas from his cartoons. While this gives rise to some problems of attribution, Botticelli’s workshop seems to have been very loosely organised, and the difference in quality between fully autograph and studio and school works is sharper than for other artists with large workshops (such as Giovanni Bellini or Perugino). With the exception of Filippino Lippi, none of Botticelli’s pupils became an independent painter of note.
After about 1500 (with the return of Leonardo and Michelangelo to Florence and their creation of the new High Renaissance style), Botticelli seems to have suffered a decline in popularly and to have painted comparatively little (though Vasari’s account that, unbalanced by a fanatical devotion to the Savonarola sect, he abandoned his work and sank so deeply into poverty that he would have starved without the assistance of his friends, appears exaggerated). He died, heavily in debt, in 1510 and was buried (17 May) in the church of the Ognissanti (All Saints) near his family home.
Once hailed by contemporary poets as a ‘new Apelles’, Botticelli was soon largely forgotten. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Grand Duke Ferdinand’s decree prohibiting the export of works of art from Florence failed even to include Botticelli’s name among the city’s notable painters. Since his rediscovery, in the last third of the nineteenth century, by John Ruskin, Walter Pater, the Pre-Raphaelites and the aesthetes of Victorian England, he has remained among the most popular and most studied of all Renaissance artists.
Ajaccio. Musée Fesch.
Madonna and Child with Angel. Wood, 110 x 70.
This very abraded panel is attributed to Botticelli as one of his earliest works (about 1465). The motif of the angel supporting the Child, which is also used in the early Madonna in Naples, derives from Filippo Lippi, while the decorative swags that frame the upper part of the picture recall the garlands in contemporary Florentine sculptures by Antonio Rossellino or Desiderio da Settignano. From the collection of Cardinal Joseph Fesch, Napoleon’s step-uncle, and presumably looted by the French army during the occupation of Italy. Although the museum has catalogued the picture as a Botticelli since the late nineteenth century, it is only since the Second World War that it has attracted much attention. Restoration in 1983-87 revealed the extent of the damage to the original paint surface.
Altenburg. Lindenau Museum.
Portrait of a Lady ('Caterina Sforza'). Wood, 81 x 53.
The golden-haired young woman is shown in sharp profile, looking out of a window to the left and resting her hand on a box on the sill. The wheel, martyr's palm and halo (attributes of St Catherine) appear to be later additions. Acquired in Italy in 1847 by Baron Bernard von Lindenau for only 40 scudi. The theory that the sitter is Caterina Sforza was published in 1897 (by August Schmarsow in the Gazette des Beaux Arts) and is based on a comparison with medals. The portrait was ascribed at first to Domenico Ghirlandaio. Attributions to Botticelli appeared towards the end of the nineteenth century, but were influentially rejected in 1899 by Bernard Berenson, who included the portrait among the works of his hypothetical 'Amico di Sandro'. After Berenson's creation was discredited in the 1920s, most portraits attributed to 'Amico di Sandro', including the so-called Caterina Sforza, were re-assigned to Botticelli. Generally considered a fairly early work, dating from the early or mid-1470s.
Judith with the Head of Holofernes. Wood, 37 x 20.
This tiny panel is quite damaged – it has been transferred to a new support, much repainted (particularly the black background and the floor) and cut down on three sides. It is unlikely to have belonged to an altarpiece, and may have been painted simply as a precious object to be kept in a casket or leather case. The composition may have been inspired by a small painting of the same subject by Mantegna that is known to have been in the Medici collections. Unrecorded before the late nineteenth century, when it was in the hands of a London restorer named Buttery. Acquired by Richard von Kaufmann of Berlin about 1901. From 1919 to 1941 it was in the collection of J.W. Edwin vom Roth of Amsterdam, who bequeathed it to the Rijksmuseum. The damaged figure of the maid on the right had been painted out and was revealed by cleaning in 1946-48. Despite its damaged condition, the panel has been attributed to Botticelli almost without question. Probably a late work of about 1495-1500.
Avignon. Musée du Petit Palais.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 72 x 51.
One of more than 650 pictures acquired by Napoleon III in 1861 from the Marquis de Campana of Rome. Exhibited in the museum at Perigueux from 1872 to 1956; then shown briefly in the Louvre and transferred to Avignon in 1976. Ascribed to Filippo Lippi in the 1858 catalogue of the Campana collection, and later to Filippo’s school. Judged an early product of Botticelli’s workshop by Berenson (1932 and 1963). First considered a youthful work of Botticelli himself by Michael Laclotte in the catalogue to the 1956 exhibition From Giotto to Bellini in the Paris Orangerie. The attribution has become more generally accepted since the picture was restored in 1973-74.
Baltimore. Museum of Art.
Madonna and Child with Five Angels. Wood, 133 in dia.
Opinion has been divided over whether Botticelli had any share in the execution of this attractive tondo (labelled 'Botticelli and studio' by the museum). There is a well-known variant ('Madonna delle Rose') in the Pitti Palace. Auctioned in London in 1905 with the estate of Lady Louisa Ashburton, and bequeathed to the museum in 1936 with the collection of the Baltimore socialite and philanthropist Mary Frick Jacobs.
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
Story of Virginia. Wood, 86 x 165.
The story is told in Livy’s History. In the centre, Appius Claudius passes sentence on Virginia, falsely accused of being a slave. On the right, her father, the centurion Lucius Virginius, kills her rather than let her fall into the clutches of the tyrant. Possibly one of the ‘many paintings set in frames of walnut’ described by Vasari as ‘full of beautiful and animated figures’, painted for the Casa Vespucci in Via de’ Servi. The Story of Lucrezia at Boston (Gardner Museum) is from the same series. They are late works, sometimes ascribed, at least in part, to Botticelli’s workshop. The Bergamo panel was discovered in about 1870 by the great art historian Giovanni Morelli at the Monte di Pietà (charitable pawnbrokers) in Rome. The classical subject had been forgotten and the picture was called 'horsemen and a rape of nuns'. Morelli bequeathed his collection to the Accademia in 1891. Restoration in 2000 removed a heavy coating of brownish varnish, exposing damage caused in the past by harsh cleaning.
Portrait of Giuliano de’Medici. Wood, 54 x 36.
Giuliano, the younger brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478. This melancholy profile portrait may be posthumous, and is probably a studio work. A version at Berlin has a plain blue-green background rather than a window. A third version at Washington is larger and includes a turtledove, perched on a dead branch in the foreground. All three versions appear to have been executed from the same cartoon. From the collection of Giovanni Morelli, who had acquired it in Florence in 1883. The picture, which had begun to show some worrying cracks, was restored in 2012.
Redeemer Blessing. Wood, 48 x 32.
This small devotional panel is classed either as a late work of Botticelli or as a late product of his studio. It was originally part of a diptych; the other part was a Mater Dolorosa. Acquired in Florence in 1865 by Giovanni Morelli, who immediately placed it in the hands of the restorer Giuseppe Molteni. The Mater Dolorosa was sold to Maria, Grand Duchess of Russia, and is last recorded in 1913, when it was exhibited at the Hermitage. There is another version of the Redeemer (on canvas) at the Fogg Museum, Cambridge (Mass.).
The Bardi Altarpiece. Wood, 185 x 180.
Painted for the Bardi Chapel (on the extreme left of the apse) in the church of Santo Spirito. The patron was Giovanni d’Agnolo dei Bardi, a banker and wool merchant, who had lived for many years in London (where he was known as John de Barde) and decided to ornament the chapel after his return to Florence in 1483. On 3 August 1485 Botticelli received payment of 75 florins – 35 for his work, 38 for gold and 2 for blue paint. The frame (now lost) was carved by Giuliano da Sangallo, the famous architect, who was paid 24 florins for it on 7 February 1485. The Madonna is enthroned between the donor’s two name saints, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. The Baptist, dressed in camel hair and holding his scroll and reed cross, points to the Christ Child; his baptismal bowl lies at his feet. The elderly Evangelist holds a quill pen and his Gospel; his eagle is just visible behind his red robe. The figures are set against bowers of bristling shrubbery (woven palm leaves behind the Virgin and Child, cypress behind the Baptist and myrtle or ilex behind the Evangelist), while along the marble parapet are vases of tall lilies, bowls of red and white roses and sprays of olive. The plants are labelled with banderoles giving quotations from scripture (mainly Chapter 24 of the Book of Ecclesiasticus). At the bottom edge of the picture is the trompe l'oeil image of a framed Crucifixion propped against an urn or pyx. In the late 1620s, a new altarpiece (Jacopo Vignali's Mystical Communion of Blessed Clare of Montefalco) was installed in the Bardi Chapel, and Botticelli's picture was removed from the church to the Casa Bardi. It was sold in 1825 to the Florentine dealer Fedele Acciai, and acquired for the Berlin Museum by Baron Carl Friedrich von Rumohr in 1828 or 1829.
Saint Sebastian. Wood, 195 x 75.
Generally identified as the Saint Sebastian that Vasari says was commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent and with the picture that the ‘Anonimo Magliabechiano’ says was hung on a pillar in Santa Maria Maggiore on 20 January 1473 (1474). The Pietà in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, is also thought to have hung on a pillar in the church. The Saint Sebastian had left the church by the seventeenth century. It was acquired (attributed to Pollaiuolo) with the collection of the English merchant Edward Solly in 1821. Somewhat damaged and retouched.
Madonna and Child with Eight Angels. Wood, 135 in dia.
This huge tondo was probably painted in the late 1470s or early 1480s. It is sometimes identified with the ‘circular picture with some angels, all life-size’ described by Vasari in San Francesco (now San Salvatore al Monte) near the San Miniato Gate. Looted from Italy during the Napoleonic occupation, and purchased in France by Count Raczinsky of Berlin for 2,500 francs in 1824. On loan to various German museums from 1884 until 1954, when it was bought by the Berlin Museum.
Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici. Wood, 54 x 36.
From the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, where it was described as a portrait of a member of the Strozzi family by Pollaiuolo. Bought by the Berlin Museum after the sale of the Strozzi collection in 1878. There are several other versions, perhaps the best of which is in Washington. They may have been commissioned, after Giuliano’s murder in the Pazzi conspiracy of April 1478, either as Medici gifts to loyal supporters or by families anxious to demonstrate their allegiance to the Medici.
Lady in Profile (so-called Simonetta Vespucci). Wood, 48 x 35.
One of a number of rather similar female profiles that have been supposed to represent Simonetta Vespucci. The best is probably at Frankfurt; there are others in London (National Gallery) and Tokyo (Marubeni Corporation). It is uncertain if they are portraits or simply illustrations of some female ideal. The Berlin picture seems to have come from the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, and was acquired by the museum in 1875. It has generally been judged a workshop or school picture, though Frank Zöllner (in his 2005 monograph) thinks that it might have been executed partly by Botticelli himself. The luxuriant hair, elaborately dressed and braided, is highlighted with shell gold.
Venus. Wood, 157 x 68.
A replica of the iconic nude figure in the Birth of Venus. Called an autograph Botticelli by some nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century German art historians, but long relegated to his workshop or circle. There is another version (perhaps rather better) in the Galleria Sabauda at Turin. The contours of the replicas closely follow those of Botticelli's original, suggesting that the copyist used a cartoon or stencil. From the Solly collection.
Drawings for Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. Parchment, 33 x 48.
There are eighty-five sheets, each illustrating a canto of Dante’s great poem. Illustrations for seven other cantos are in the Vatican Library, while eight are presumed lost. The illustrations, which often incorporate several different episodes from the same canto, are drawn with metal styluses (a hard silver point for fine outlines and a softer lead/tin point for details and revisions) on the smooth side of the parchment. They are in widely differing states of completion. The majority have been retraced in pen and ink. Just four of the drawings – one in Berlin and three in the Vatican – are to some extent coloured. On the other (rough) side of each sheet, the text of the poem is written in four columns in tiny Gothic letters. Older critics (such as Horne and Berenson) thought that the drawings dated from the 1490s, but variations in style suggest that the work was probably very long drawn-out – perhaps beginning as early as about 1480 and continuing until the mid-1490s. The original purpose of the drawings is not quite certain. It has been suggested that they were intended as designs for the decoration of a studiolo or Dante gallery, or to be viewed in sequence as a series of scrolls or mounted on mobile panels. However, it is perhaps most likely that they were intended simply to be bound in book form. They are first mentioned by the ‘Anonimo Magliabechiano’, who wrote around 1540 that ‘Botticelli painted and decorated with figures a Dante on sheepskin for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, which was held to be something marvellous’. At some unknown date, they went to France. In 1803, the Berlin sheets were in the hands of Claudio Molini, a Florentine book dealer living in Paris. They were acquired by the Duke of Hamilton by 1819, and remained at Hamilton Palace, near Glasgow, until 1882, when they were sold (secretly and controversially) to the Royal Museums. They were reunited with the Vatican drawings in 2000-01 for exhibitions at Berlin, Rome and London.
Birmingham. Barber Institute.
Madonna and Child with St John. Canvas, 131 x 92.
Probably a relatively late work of Botticelli’s studio. In a superior version in the Pitti Palace, the figures are reversed and the stone doorway in the background is replaced by a rose hedge. First recorded in 1866, when it was sold at Christie’s with the collection of Henry Farrer. Acquired from Colnaghi in 1943.
Birmingham. City Art Gallery.
Pentecost. Wood, 221 x 229.
The 'tongues of fire' mentioned in the Bible (Acts: 2, 1-13) are represented as rays of golden light shining down from heaven and kindling flames on the heads of the Apostles. This damaged and retouched altarpiece, related in style to the Pietàs in Milan and Munich, is generally considered a late studio work, designed by Botticelli but executed largely or wholly by assistants. First certainly recorded only in 1872, it was acquired a few years later by Sir Herbert Cook, and remained in the Cook collection at Richmond until 1958, when it was sold at Sotheby’s. Acquired by the Birmingham gallery in 1959 for £6,000, after an export licence had been refused in order to prevent the picture going to the Bob Jones Museum, South Carolina. The panel appears to have been cut down substantially at the bottom, and probably also at the top and sides. A dove, representing the Holy Spirit, was added in a nineteenth-century restoration and has now been removed. The picture has been identified recently as a fragment of an altarpiece commissioned in 1505 by the Compagnia dello Spirito Santo at Montelupo (a town near Empoli). The recently discovered contract – the only contract known for a work by Botticelli – specified that the altarpiece should represent the Pentecost and should be eight bracci high and five bracci wide (some 4.6 by 2.9 metres). (See the article by Louis Waldman in Rab Hatfield (ed.), Sandro Botticelli and Herbert Horne (2009).) The picture was restored for the exhibition Botticelli Reimagined held in 2016 at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Photographs taken during the restoration reveal substantial paint losses along the four vertical joins in the panel.
Boston. Gardner Museum.
Madonna of the Eucharist (‘Chigi Madonna’). Wood, 85 x 65.
The Virgin reaches for the ears of wheat and grapes that symbolise the bread and wine of the Eucharist. An early work, showing the influence of Pollaiuolo and probably close in date to the Fortezza of 1470 in the Uffizi. First noticed by Giovanni Morelli in about 1890 on the ground floor of the Palazzo Chigi (now the Italian Foreign Office) in Rome. Sold by Prince Mario Chigi to Edmund Despretz in 1899. The sale contravened the Pacca Law prohibiting the export of works of art, and the prince was required to pay a large fine (which was reduced on appeal). In the same year, it was bought secretly from Colnaghi (through Berenson) for £13,500 by Mrs Gardner, who outbid a German emperor and British syndicate.
Story of Lucrezia. Wood, 84 x 180.
On the left, the virtuous Lucrezia is ravished by Tarquin. On the right, she falls dying into the arms of her husband Brutus after stabbing herself. In the main central scene, Brutus calls for revenge, as she lies on her bier surrounded by mourning women and angry soldiers. The panel is a pendant to the Story of Virginia – another martyr for chastity – in Bergamo. The two panels are related in general composition to two earlier cassone panels of Lucrezia and Virginia by Filippino Lippi (in the Pitti Palace and Louvre). The Boston panel was the first of the many paintings acquired for Mrs Gardner by Berenson, who bought it from the Earl of Ashburnham in 1894 for £3,000. The Story of Lucrezia and Story of Virginia were reunited in a small exhibition (Botticelli: Heroines and Heroes) held at the Gardner Museum in February-May 2019.
Nativity. Wood, 79 in dia.
Unusual prominence is given to St Joseph, who could be either placing the infant on the ground or picking him up. In the right background are two shepherds, one carrying a black lamb across his shoulders and the other gazing up at the sky. This tondo, which hung in the Palazzo Antinori in Florence, was bought by Mrs Gardner in 1900 from the Duke of Brindisi for around $40,000. It exhibits curious inconsistencies of style – the Virgin is typical of Botticelli but the powerful St Joseph is much less characteristic. It might either have been painted in Botticelli’s workshop by different hands or have been started in his workshop and completed elsewhere.
Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum.
Two fragments from an Adoration of the Magi. Canvas, 31 x 23 and 44 x 37.
The fragments are painted in brown and white oil paint on linen. One, from the centre of the composition, shows the Holy Family and a kneeling Magus. The other, from the right-hand side, depicts members of the Magi's retinue kneeling in adoration or standing as onlookers. A third fragment, depicting other members of the Magi's retinue and their horses, is in the Morgan Library, New York. The monochrome painting is usually assumed to have been a cartoon or modello, rather than a finished work of art. Some figures, including the Holy Family group, are closely similar to those in Botticelli's late unfinished (and repainted) Adoration of the Magi in the Uffizi. The three surviving fragments were probably acquired in Italy by William Young Ottley, and later belonged to the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence and the collector William Russell. The two Cambridge fragments were among eighty-five works given to the museum in 1913 by G. T. Clough. They are kept with the drawings collection and are not on permanent display.
Cambridge (Mass.) Fogg Art Museum.
Mystic Crucifixion. Canvas, 73 x 51.
Painted on unprimed cloth and very damaged through flaking and abrasion. Thought to be a very late work (about 1500?), painted under the influence of Savonarola. The detailed interpretation is open to question, but the general meaning seems to be the deliverance of Florence, clearly identifiable in the background, from damnation. God the Father in the top left-hand corner appears to be driving away the storm clouds of wrath from the city. Angels descend from the sky to vanquish demons; only their white shields displaying red crosses (the arms of the Florentine people and a Savonarolan emblem) are now visible. Mary Magdalene, clinging to the foot of the cross, presumably represents the penitent city or Church. A wolf or fox, signifying violence or deceit, flees from under her cloak. An angel slays a little tawny animal, which can be interpreted either as the Marzocco, the heraldic Florentine lion, or simply another symbol of violence. The picture was acquired in 1924 in a much repainted state; before cleaning in 1925 it was generally attributed to Botticelli’s studio.
Cardiff. National Museum of Wales.
Virgin and Child with the Infant St John. Wood, 86 in dia.
This tondo was probably executed in Botticelli's studio by an assistant working from stock designs. Formerly in the Fuller Maitland collection at Stansted Hall in Essex. (This important collection also contained Botticelli's Mystic Nativity and his tondo of the Adoration of the KIngs – both now in the National Gallery, London.) Bequeathed to the museum in 1952 by the Welsh philanthropist and arts patron Gwendoline Davies. There is another version – with similar figures but a different background – in the National Gallery, London. Other versions and variants are also known.
Chicago. Art Institute.
Virgin and Child with Two Angels. Wood, 34 in dia.
The angels, standing on either side of the Virgin’s throne, hold back the curtains of a pavilion. The tiny panel is very damaged: it has been planed down and mounted on board, and the surface is badly abraded. Fahy (1969) suggested that it might be the piccolo tondo (with figures ‘tiny but very graceful and beautifully composed’) seen by Vasari in the prior’s room in Santa Maria degli Angeli. It probably dates from the late 1480s or early 1490s. Acquired by Max and Leola Epstein of Chicago by 1928 from the dealer Julius Böhler, and bequeathed to the Art Institute in 1954.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 83 x 59.
An angel, only half visible on the left, adores the Mother and Child. Through the arched portico is a view of a river valley. There is another version in the Norton Simon Foundation at Pasadena. There is disagreement as to which version (if either) is Botticelli’s original. Acquired by the Epsteins in 1925 and bequeathed to the Art Institute in 1954.
Cincinnati. Art Museum.
Return of Judith. Wood, 29 x 22.
This very damaged little panel is possibly a first version, possibly a replica, of the picture in the Uffizi. On the back, equally damaged, a landscape with two deer and two monkeys. The panel was conceivably a cover for a portrait. Once in the Palazzo de’ Fondi at Naples, then in the hands of the famous dealer Bardini of Florence, and later with the New Gallery, New York. At the Cincinnati Museum since 1954.
Cleveland (Ohio). Museum of Art.
Virgin and Child with St John. Wood, 68 in dia.
This intimate tondo shows the Child striding across the Virgin's lap, reaching for her veil with his right hand and pressing his face against her cheek. The young St John looks on in veneration. The figures are shown against a mountainous river landscape. Versions of this composition – more or less varied and with or without the St John – are quite common. (There is one at Dresden and another in the National Gallery, London.) The Cleveland picture has sometimes been accepted as a work of Botticelli himself. but more recent critics (including Lightbown (1978)) have tended to ascribe the execution to an assistant. Previous owners include the businessman and collector Robert Hoe of New York and his son Arthur (until at least 1916), the restorer and collector Baron Michele Lazzaroni of Rome (by 1925), and the dealer Guglielmo Canessa of Milan (by 1959). Acquired by the museum in 1970.
Columbia (South Carolina). Museum of Art.
Nativity. Detached fresco, 161 x 137.
Heavily restored. (The three hovering angels are largely reconstructed, as are the plants in the foreground.) The composition largely repeats (in reverse) that of a frescoed lunette in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The original location of the fresco is unknown. It might originally have served as an altarpiece within a chapel or as an outdoor tabernacle. First recorded only in 1885, when it was lent (as a work of Filippino LIppi) to the Louvre for an exhibition to benefit children orphaned by the Franco-Prussian War. Sold in London with the collection of Sir William Neville Abdy in 1911. Later in the Paris collection of Charles Sedelmeyer, it was bought by Duveen in 1937, who sold it to Kress in 1946. Berenson attributed it to Botticelli at first (in an undated opinion), but relegated it to Botticelli’s studio in his posthumous 1963 Lists. Some recent critics have considered it a school picture, though Miklós Boskovits (2003) thinks it ‘an autograph work in a ruinous condition’. Restored in 1994.
Detroit. Institute of Art.
Christ Blessing. Wood, 45 x 29.
This small devotional panel – similar (though by no means identical) to the one in Bergamo – came to serious notice in the late 1920s. It was at first regarded as an autograph work of Botticelli of the early 1480s, but has more recently been classed as a high-quality studio product of the 1490s. Formerly in the Gavet collection at Paris and the Belmont collection in Newport, it was given to the Art Institute by Dr W. R. Valentiner in 1927.
Last Acts of Saint Zenobius. Wood, 66 x 182.
A widow’s child is run over by a cart (left). The distraught mother begs two deacons of Zenobius to help, and the saint’s prayers bring the child back to life. On the right, the saint announces his own death. One of a series of four panels showing scenes from the life of the saint. Two others are in the National Gallery, London, and one is in New York. The fifth-century St Zenobius (Zenobi or Zenobio) was Florence’s first bishop and first saint. Botticelli took as his source Fra Clemente Mazza’s life of the saint, which was printed in 1487 and 1496. The panels are late works of the late 1490s or early 1500s. They probably decorated the wood panelling in a religious confraternity or served as the backboards of chests, but their original location is unknown. One theory is that they were painted for the Compagnia di San Zanobi, attached to Florence Cathedral. Another theory is that they were commissioned by Francesco di Zanobi Girolami, who traced his descent from St Zenobius, to decorate the marriage chamber of one of his sons (either Raffaellino, who married in 1497, or Zanobi, who married in 1500). Like the London and New York panels, the Dresden picture is first recorded in the collection of the Marchesi Rondinelli at Florence. It was acquired in 1868 from the collection of Herr von Quandt in Dresden.
Virgin and Child with St John. Wood, 90 x 74.
This appears to be a later variant – in Botticelli's mature style of around 1490 – of the early Madonna of the Rose Garden in the Louvre. It is often judged a studio work, though the museum catalogue (2005) attributes it to Botticelli himself. Many other versions of the composition are known. There is one in the Sala di Penelope of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, and another at Frankfurt. One at Cleveland (Ohio) has a tondo format and landscape background. Variants at London (National Gallery) and Oxford (Ashmolean Museum) omit the St John.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland.
Madonna Adoring the Child. Canvas, 122 x 81.
Bought, as a Botticelli, in 1859 by the Tenth Earl of Wemyss for £200 at the posthumous sale of Lord Northwick’s collection. It remained at Gosford House, East Lothian, until 1999, when, under threat of being sold to the Kimbell Museum in Texas, it was purchased by the National Gallery of Scotland for £15 million. One of only a handful of paintings by Botticelli and his workshop that were painted on canvas. The cool palette is also unusual for Botticelli. Restored and relined in 2000. Accepted as autograph by Ulmann (1893), but relegated to his studio or circle by most of the other older critics. Recent opinion has been more favourable, and the picture was attributed to Botticelli in the 2004 exhibition Botticelli e Filippino at the Palazzo Strozzi. Datings range from the early 1480s to the mid-1490s.
Madonna Adoring the Child with the Infant St John. Wood, 47 x 42.
Probably originally a tondo. Partly autograph according to Venturi (1927) and Berenson (1932-63), but more usually regarded as a late studio work (early 1500s). Bought from the Fuller Maitland collection in 1921.
‘Madonna of the Rosebush’. Wood, 124 x 64.
The Virgin is enthroned under a coffered arch leading to a rose garden. She feeds the Child a pomegranate, a fruit symbolising the Resurrection. The rose is a familiar symbol of the Virgin and the red rose is a symbol of Christ's Passion. From the Camera di Commercio on the east side of the Piazza della Signoria. Probably commissioned either by the Mercanzia (Magistrates) or the Arte della Lana (Wool Guild), both of which were housed in the Camera di Commercio. Moved to the Uffizi in 1782. Attributed to Botticelli by Wilhelm von Bode in 1883, and one of the few early Madonnas that are universally accepted as his. Probably close in date to the documented Fortezza of 1470.
Madonna in a Mandorla of Seraphim. Wood, 120 x 65.
The Virgin is shown in heaven, enthroned on a cloud and framed by seraphim. The chubby infant raises his hand in blessing. Recorded without attribution in an Uffizi inventory of 1784. The attribution to Botticelli, as one of his earliest works, was again made by Bode in 1883. The picture was omitted from Berenson's early Lists (1896-1908) and classed as a work of Filippo Lippi's school in Adolfo Venturi's 1927 monograph, but more recent opinion has been unanimously favourable. The frame is original.
‘Fortezza’. Wood, 167 x 187.
Fortitude is represented as a young woman, wearing armour and a winged helmet and holding a mace, enthroned in a niche. One of a series of seven Virtues painted for the Tribunale di Mercanzia (or Merchant’s Court), which still stands in the Piazza della Signoria. The seven pictures hung above the bench on which the six magistrates sat when trying disputes between merchants. All seven Virtues were originally commissioned from Piero del Pollaiuolo in August and December 1469. But after Piero had fallen behind with the work, two of the figures were re-allotted to Botticelli on 18 June 1470. The Fortezza was paid for on 18 August 1470, and is the earliest picture by Botticelli that can be precisely dated. For some reason, Botticelli did not paint his second figure, and the six other Virtues were all executed by Piero del Pollaiuolo. These too are in the Uffizi.
Judith; Holofernes. Two panels, each 31 x 24/25.
One small panel shows Judith, sword in one hand and olive branch in the other, fleeing to Bethulia, followed by her old and faithful maid Abra carrying the head of Holofernes in a basket. In the background, the Jews stream from the city gate to attack the besieging Assyrians. The other panel shows the discovery of Holofernes’s headless body in his tent by his eunuch Vagao and his generals. The two jewel-like and beautifully preserved panels are early works (about 1470). Too small to be cassone panels, they may have been kept in a box or leather case. In his Riposo (1584), Borghini says that they belonged to Ridolfo Sirigatti, a sculptor, painter, collector and Medici bureaucrat, who presented them to Bianco Capello, second wife of Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici, 'to decorate a study with paintings and ancient statues'. By the late sixteenth century, the two panels were framed side by side as a diptych.
Madonna with Six Saints. Wood, 170 x 194.
Saints Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist stand on the left, Francis and Catherine of Alexandria on the right; the doctor saints Cosmas and Damian kneel before the throne. Probably Botticelli’s earliest surviving altarpiece (about 1470). The presence of Cosmas and Damian (who resemble the corresponding figures in Fra Angelico’s San Marco Altarpiece) suggest that it was commissioned by the Medici or someone in their circle. From the church of Sant’Ambrogio. Transferred (as a work of Ghirlandaio) to the Accademia in 1808, and whence to the Uffizi in 1946. Most of the heads were repainted in the sixteenth century, which caused the attribution to be doubted at one time. Restoration in 1992 put Botticelli’s authorship beyond doubt.
Man with a Medal. Wood, 57 x 44.
The young man, in a red cap and black tunic, holds a gold medal (made of gilt gesso and set into the panel). The medal bears the head of Cosimo the Elder, which suggests that the sitter had some connection with the Medici. A remarkable number of identifications have been proposed, ranging from members of the Medici family (Giovanni di Cosimo, Piero the Gouty, Piero di Lorenzo, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco and Lorenzo the Magnificent) to the philosopher Pico della Mirandola, the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni, the medallists Michelozzo or Niccolò Fiorentino and Cristoforo Geremia, and Botticelli’s brother Antonio di Mariano Filipepi (who was known for the recasting and gilding of medals). It has even been suggested recently that the picture is a self-portrait of Botticelli displaying one of his brother’s medals. The portrait is first recorded in the collection of Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici, which passed into the Uffizi when the cardinal died in 1666. The frame, carved with palm branches, is original.
The picture is not unique among Botticelli's portraits in showing the sitter holding a round object inserted into the panel. A rarely exhibited portrait, once owned by the English physicist Sir Thomas Merton and now in the collection of the New York real estate developer Sheldon Solow, depicts a young man in a similar pose holding a fourteenth-century gold-ground image of an elderly bearded saint.
Adoration of the Magi. Wood, 111 x 134.
The picture is famous for its Medici portraits. Cosimo the Elder kneeling before the Child (‘the most convincing and natural of all the surviving portraits’ according to Vasari) and his sons Piero and Giovanni are the Three Magi. Giuliano, murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478, stands on the right, head bowed. Lorenzo is identified either as the figure standing by his horse at the left edge or as the man standing to Cosimo’s left in a peaked hat and white, gold-embroidered cloak. The striking figure in the yellow ochre robe, standing on the far right and looking out at the spectator, is usually said to be Botticelli himself. (This identification is not terribly old, however: it appears to date back only to Ulmann's 1893 monograph.) The Adoration was commissioned, probably in the mid-1470s, by the Medici adherent Guaspare di Zenobi del Lami (or Lama) of the Guild of Moneychangers as the altarpiece for his funerary chapel, to the right of the main door of Santa Maria Novella. Guaspare is probably the elderly white-haired man looking towards the viewer in the middle of the group to the right. The picture was replaced in the sixteenth century by an Annunciation by Sano di Tito, and was transferred to the Uffizi from the Villa of Poggio Imperiale in 1796.
Annunciation. Fresco, 245 x 535.
From the demolished Spedale di San Martino al Mugnone – originally an orphanage for abandoned children and later a plague hospital – in the Via Della Scala. It was above a door in the loggia in front of the church. When the convent was remodelled in the seventeenth century, the fresco was reduced to two lunettes. It was rediscovered in a very damaged state in 1910, removed from the wall by Professore Lucarini and restored to its original form. In 1916 Poggi discovered a document in the archives of the hospital of the Innocenti proving that the fresco was painted in April and May 1481, on the eve of Botticelli’s departure for Rome. Botticelli was paid ten large florins for it. After restoration in the 1980s, the fresco was exhibited on the ground floor of the gallery near the entrance. During another restoration in 2001, substantial missing areas at the top and sides were reconstructed. Since October 2016, the fresco has been exhibited in the first Botticelli Room (Sala 10).
Primavera. Wood, 203 x 314.
There is an immense literature on the meaning of this picture, but Vasari’s description of the subject as an Allegory of Spring seems to be correct. The scene takes place in a dark glade carpeted with spring flowers and overhung with orange trees. On the right, Zephyr, the west wind, blows. Chloris, the earth nymph, tries to escape his embrace, dropping flowers from her mouth. Flora scatters rose petals from her lap. Venus, maidenly rather than erotic, stands in the centre. The blindfolded Cupid flies above her head, shooting a burning arrow. On the left, the Three Graces dance and Mercury (a god of spring) disperses the clouds of winter with his wand. The flowering meadow is described with meticulous botanical accuracy. The many different plants include buttercups and daisies, coltsfoot and starwort, poppies, camomile, violets, chysanthemums, strawberry, crocuses, nigella, lilies, irises, jasmine and forget-me-nots. It used to be assumed that the picture was painted for the Villa di Castello, in the northern outskirts of Florence, where Vasari saw it. However, it has been discovered that in 1498 it hung in the bedchamber of the town house of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent’s younger first cousin once removed) on Via Larga. It is often assumed to have been commissioned for his marriage to his second wife Semiramide d’Appiani – which was negotiated in October 1480, planned for May 1482 but delayed until 19 July. As Botticelli was in Rome from spring/summer 1481 to spring/summer 1482, the picture would have to have been painted at least a year before the wedding or else completed after the wedding had taken place. An alternative view (which has been supported by stylistic comparisons with the Bardi Altarpiece of 1485) is that it was painted somewhat later in the 1480s. It remained at Castello until 1815, when it was moved to the Uffizi. It was beautifully restored in 1982. Unfortunately, the background foliage has permanently darkened owing to the use of copper resinate, which has turned from green to brown.
Pallas and the Centaur. Canvas, 207 x 148.
The identity of the female figure is not quite certain. In an inventory of 1498, she is described as Camilla (the mythological warrior queen of the Volscians). In an inventory of 1516, she is described as Minerva (goddess of wisdom, alternatively called Pallas Athene). The Minerva/Pallas identification is preferred by most modern writers, but not all. The figure lacks Minerva's usual attributes of the Gorgon's head aegis, helmet, spear and owl. She is crowned with olive leaves, and olive branches are entwined like a net around her arms and torso. She is armed with a halberd, suggesting her role as a sentry or guardian, and grasps the hair of the centaur, who holds a strung bow. The symbol of the three interlocking rings on her white robe and on the collar around her neck was a device of the Medici. The picture was once given a political interpretation: Medicean wisdom and culture, represented by Pallas, subduing lawlessness, represented by the centaur. Gombrich suggested that it illustrates Marsilio Ficino’s concept of the duality of the soul: Pallas, representing reason, guiding the centaur, representing sensuality. More recently, Ronald Lightbown has seen it as an allegory of marital chastity, with Minerva/Camilla possibly a portrait of Semiramide, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco’s bride. It is almost the same height as the Primavera and may have been commissioned as a pendant to it. In 1498 the two pictures hung in the bedchamber of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco’s house near the Palazzo Medici. The Pallas and the Centaur was above a door, which could explain the low viewpoint. It was moved, probably in the 1540s, to the Villa di Castello, where it remained until about 1830. It was rediscovered in 1895 in the private apartments of the Pitti Palace, and transferred to the Uffizi in 1922.
Birth of Venus. Canvas, 175 x 278.
Venus, having risen naked from the foam of the sea in a scallop shell, is blown in a shower of roses to the shore by Zephyr and a nymph (probably Chloris or the gentle breeze Aura). She is received by the Hora of Spring, who wears a dress adorned with blue cornflowers, a girdle of roses and a garland of myrtle, and who throws around her a pink cloak sown with daisies. An orange grove reaches down to the sea. The picture corresponds closely to a passage praising the Venus Anadyomene in Angelo Poliziano’s poem La Giostra, which celebrated a tournament held in the Piazza of Santa Croce in 1475. It has even been suggested that the picture, painted on canvas, was used as a banner during tournament festivities. The naked figure of Venus is based on antique statues of the Venus Pudica (one of which is known to have belonged to the Medici as early as 1375). Her flowing tresses are highlighted in shell gold – finely powdered gold mixed with an adhesive and applied as paint. Like the Primavera, the Birth of Venus was seen by Vasari in the mid-sixteenth century in the Villa di Castello; but the two pictures do not seem to have belonged to the same programme and the Birth of Venus is probably slightly later (middle or late 1480s?). The subject suggests that it was commissioned as a marriage gift or (just conceivably) to mark a birth. Transferred to the Uffizi in 1815.
‘Madonna of the Magnificat’. Wood, 115 in dia.
The Virgin writes lines from the Magnificat (from Luke’s Gospel) on one page of the open book and from the Song of Zacharius (celebrating the birth of the Baptist, protector of Florence) on the other. Two angels place a crown upon her head, and two others hold her book and inkstand. Bought for twenty-five zecchini in 1784 from Ottavio Magherini as an anonymous work, and not attributed to Botticelli until 1864 (by Crowe and Cavalcaselle). Usually dated in the 1480s. The picture was evidently very popular, as there are at least a half-dozen old replicas of it (including one in the Louvre and another in the Pierpont Library, New York).
‘Madonna della Melagrana’. Wood, 143 in dia.
The Madonna is surrounded by six angels holding lilies and choir books. The huge tondo takes its name from the open melagrana (pomegranate) held by the Child. Possibly the tondo painted by Botticelli in 1487 for the audience chamber of the Magistrato de’ Massi della Camera in the Palazzo della Signoria. It is first certainly recorded in 1675 in the collection left by Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici to his nephew, Grand Duke Cosimo III. Still in its magnificent original frame, carved with the lilies of Florence.
San Barnaba Altarpiece. Wood, 268 x 280.
The Madonna is enthroned among four angels – two holding back the curtains of the baldacchino and two displaying instruments of the Passion – and six saints. The saints on the left are Catherine of Alexandria (whose wheel is just visible behind her green robe), Augustine of Hippo (who is writing his Confessions) and Barnabas (who holds an olive branch and a copy of St Matthew's Gospel). Those on the right are a youthful John the Baptist, Ignatius of Antioch (who displays his heart on which Christ's name was written) and Michael the Archangel. The monochrome reliefs above the Virgin's throne depict the Angel and Virgin of the Annunciation. The Italian inscription on the step of the throne ('Virgin mother, daughter of your son') is a quotation from St Bernard's prayer to the Virgin from Dante's Paradiso. This imposing picture probably dates from the mid or late 1480s. It was the high altarpiece of the small Augustinian church of San Barnaba on Via Guelfa. The church was under the patronage of the Arte de’ Medici e Speziali (the guild of physicians and pharmacists), who probably commissioned the work. The picture remained in situ until about 1677, when it was moved behind the high altar. It was drastically restored in 1717 by the Florentine painter Agostino Veracini, who enlarged the panel by some 70 cm at the top. It was taken to the Accademia when the church and its convent were suppressed in 1808. Veracini's addition was removed in 1919, when the picture was transferred to the Uffizi. Restored in 2000-1.
Four Predella Panels. Wood, each 20/21 x 38/40.
The four sketchily painted scenes are: St Augustine and the Child by the Seashore; the Pietà; Salome with the Head of the Baptist; and the Removal of the Heart of St Ignatius. The panels formed part of the predella of the San Barnaba Altarpiece, which presumably also included panels relating to St Barnabas, St Catherine and St Michael. The predella was separated from the rest of the altarpiece during Veracini's 1717 restoration.
Annunciation. Wood, 150 x 156.
Painted for the newly rebuilt church of the Cestello. The libro di benefattori of the church (now Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi) states that the donor was Benedetto di Ser Francesco Guardi, the price was thirty ducats, and that the chapel for which the picture was painted (second from the right) was erected in 1489-90. Benedetto was a banker who enjoyed high public office as one of the Priori and the Otto. The picture was discovered in 1870 in a chapel near Fiesole belonging to the nuns of the church. It was transferred to the Uffizi in 1872. It still retains its original frame. In the centre of the predella, there is a small trompe-l'oeil image of the Man of Sorrows that projects into the viewer's space. The veil of Veronica hangs on the front of the tomb. The inscription on the predella (''The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you') is from Luke 1: 35. The arms of the Guardi family appear on the pilaster bases.
Coronation of the Virgin. Wood, 378 x 258.
In the golden dome of heaven, God the Father crowns the Virgin within a circle of angels dancing hand-in-hand and scattering roses on the clouds. Saints John the Evangelist, Augustine, Jerome and Eligius stand below, contemplating the vision. The predella (21 x 196; painted on a single panel) shows the Annunciation and scenes from the lives of the four saints in the main panel (St John on Patmos; the Vision of St Augustine; St Jerome in Penitence; and a Miracle of St Eligius). The picture is Botticelli’s largest altarpiece and one of the largest Florentine altarpieces of the fifteenth century. It was painted around 1490 for the guild of goldsmiths, whose chapel, dedicated to St Eligio (Eligius), was to the left of the main door of the church of San Marco. The price of 100 gold ducats was relatively low for such a huge picture. Botticelli’s altarpiece was replaced by a Transfiguration by Paggi in 1596 and moved to the chapter; taken to the Accademia in 1807 and transferred to the Uffizi in 1919. Because of flaking, the picture was in store between 1969 and 1989. It has been exhibited again since 1990, following restoration.
Calumny. Wood, 62 x 91.
The picture partly follows Lucian’s description of a painting by Apelles and partly Alberti’s loose description of it in his Della Pictoria. Calumny, adorned by Duplicity and Deceit and led by Envy, and holding a torch to kindle fires of hatred and revenge, drags naked Innocence by his hair to the judge, King Midas with ass’s ears, who is enthroned between Suspicion and Ignorance. On the left, Remorse, an old hag in a ragged Dominican habit, looks back regretfully at Truth, posed as Venus, who points upwards in an appeal to the heavens. The reliefs on the plinths and under the arches show scenes from Boccaccio, Dante and classical writers. Few of the statues, protruding from the niches on the piers, can be positively identified. The one above the king's throne represents Judith with the head of Holofernes, and the reliefs above and below it depict scenes from the Old Testament story. According to Vasari, Botticelli gave the picture to his close friend Antonio Segna (Guida). (Segna, banker to the papal curia and (from 1497) master of the papal mint, died in 1512 after Julius II had put him on the rack for warning Piero Soderini, Gonfaloniere to the Florentine Republic, not to visit Rome.) A fairly late work. The subject may refer to the many false accusations made against prominent Florentines after the execution of Savonarola in 1498.
Saint Augustine. Wood, 41 x 27.
The floor of the Renaissance cell is littered with scraps of paper and discarded quill pens. Probably the ‘beautiful little picture … showing St Augustine at his studies’ mentioned by Vasari (as a work of Fra Filippo Lippi) in the house of Benedetto Vecchietti, a Florentine gentleman. By 1767 it was in the hands of Ignazio Hugford, an Anglo-Italian painter and dealer living in Florence. Acquired (as Lippi) by the Uffizi in 1779. The attribution to Botticelli was made by Giovanni Morelli. Fairly late (probably mid-1490s).
Adoration of Magi. Wood, 108 x 173.
Unfinished: only ‘laid in’ by Botticelli, with some colour added by a later (probably seventeenth-century) artist. The two figures to the left of Joseph have been supposed to represent Lorenzo de’ Medici and Savonarola; but there is no very firm basis for these identifications, which were originally made in 1880 by Heath Wilson. It has been suggested very recently (by Andrew Johnson in Renaissance in Tuscany (2015)) that the aristocratic figure with a sword standing in the right foreground is a portrait of Charles VIII of France, who entered Florence triumphantly in November 1494 and stayed in the city for eleven days. The picture is the last of Botticelli’s five surviving versions of this subject and one of his last pictures (probably early 1500s). Acquired by the Uffizi in 1779 from a Florentine tanner (Giovacchino Fontani). It has been kept mainly in storage. It has, however, been recently loaned to exhibitions at Cagliari (2009-10), Beijing (2010-11), Tokyo (2014), Illegio (2016) and Boston (2019).
'Madonna della Loggia'. Wood, 72 x 50.
The Christ Child, standing on the parapet, reaches out to embrace the Virgin's neck and bring his face close to hers. The panel was among the art works transferred to the Uffizi around 1784 from the Camera di Commercio. It is partly ruined. Damage done long ago by abrasive cleaning is concealed under nineteenth-century repainting. The distant landscape, viewed through the loggia, is one of the better preserved parts. In spite of its condition, the picture is sometimes accepted as an autograph early work by Botticelli. It was included in a selection of works from the Uffizi storerooms that toured the United States in 2011-13 in an exhibition entitled Offering of the Angels.
Flagellation; Way to Calvary. Canvas (transferred from panel), each 132/133 x 107.
Two from a series of four pictures showing scenes from Christ's Passion. The two other pictures, representing Christ carrying the Cross and the Resurrection, were formerly in the collection of the press baron Lord Beaverbrook and his heirs, and were sold at Sotheby's, New York, in January 2011. Nothing is known of the early history of the four pictures, which might originally have decorated the meeting room of a religious confraternity. They were 'published' in 1985 (by Federico Zeri in the Italian journal Paragone) as late works of Botticelli's studio, possibly produced after the artist's death. Most subsequent literature has continued to attribute them to Botticelli's studio, though the January 2011 Sotheby's catalogue (optimistically) labelled them as 'Botticelli', citing pentimenti revealed by infrared reflectography as evidence of the master's involvement. For more than fifty years, the two Uffizi pictures were on loan to the museum at Arezzo. They were returned in 1992, restored, and put into storage.
Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 51 x 34.
The melancholy youth wears a red tunic and headdress (mazzocchio) of purple velvet. In poor condition: rubbed and retouched. Of unknown provenance. Ascribed to Castagno in the nineteenth century, and first given to Botticelli by Adolfo Venturi in 1891. Probably one of the earliest of his surviving portraits (early 1470s?).
Portrait of a Young Woman. Wood, 61 x 40.
Once supposed to be a portrait of Simonetta, the platonic mistress of Giuliano de’ Medici and wife of Marco Vespucci, mentioned by Vasari in Duke Cosimo’s dressing room. The rather gawky young woman seems in fact to be of humbler origins. The attribution to Botticelli, recorded since 1842, is retained in the 2003 catalogue, but has often been doubted. Berenson gave the portrait to his invented painter ‘Amico di Sandro’ and later to Ghirlandaio. It has even been suggested that it is not a fifteenth-century painting at all, but a seventeenth-century fake.
Madonna and Child with St John. Canvas, 132 x 92.
The standing Virgin bends to allow the Christ child to embrace the little St John. Somewhat damaged and retouched. The attribution to Botticelli (recorded in inventories dating back to 1840) is retained in the 2003 gallery catalogue, though many critics have considered the picture a work of his studio or school. Usually dated relatively late (late 1490s or even early 1500s). A replica (in reverse) in the Barber Institute, Birmingham, was probably painted from the same cartoon.
Virgin and Child with Four Angels (‘Madonna delle Rose’). Wood, 110 in dia.
This decorative tondo comes from the Medici villa in Livorno and was transferred to Florence in 1869. It reflects Botticelli’s style of the 1490s but was executed by a clearly inferior hand. There is another version (similar, but with an extra angel and differently composed rosebush) in the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Madonna with St John and Two Angels. Wood, 85 x 64.
From the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, where it was ascribed to Filippo Lippi. First attributed to Botticelli as a very early work by Bode in 1883. Transferred to the Uffizi in 1900 and the Accademia in 1919. Previously heavily retouched; its quality can be better appreciated since cleaning in the 1980s.
Madonna and Six Saints. Canvas (transferred), 167 x 195.
An altarpiece from the oratory adjoining the Medici villa at Trebbio in the Mugello. Probably commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and his wife Semiramide Appiani, and recorded among their possessions in 1498. The name saints of Lorenzo (Lawrence) and his brother Giovanni (John the Baptist) are on the right of the picture, with Francis. The patron saints of the Medici, Cosmas and Damian, are on the left, with Dominic. A studio or school work, possibly painted from a cartoon by Botticelli. The execution has recently been ascribed (by Cecchi in his 2005 monograph) to Simone di Giuliano Ardinghelli, one of Botticelli’s studio assistants.
‘Madonna del Mare’. Wood, 40 x 28.
From the convent of Santa Felicita. This charming little picture is sometimes ascribed to Botticelli as an early work; alternatively given to his school, Filippino Lippi or Jacopo del Sellaio.
Florence. Galleria dello Spedale degli Innocenti.
Madonna and Child with an Angel. Wood, 69 x 64.
This much-retouched panel, which largely repeats the composition of Filippo Lippi’s famous Madonna and Child with Two Angels in the Uffizi, is from the sacristy of the church of the Innocenti, where it is mentioned in 1864 by Crowe and Cavalcaselle as a work of Fra Filippo. An attribution to Botticelli – as one of his earliest works, painted when he was still Fra Filippo’s pupil – was suggested in Ulmann’s 1893 German monograph on the artist. The attribution still has some supporters (see Miklós Boskovits’s entry for a similar picture in the 2003 catalogue of fifteenth-century Italian paintings in Washington), but other critics have judged the execution too weak for even a very youthful Botticelli.
Saint Augustine. Fresco, 152 x 112.
The usual interpretation of the fresco is that it represents Augustine’s vision of St Jerome. (Unaware of Jerome’s death, Augustine was writing to ask his advice on a theological point when his cell was flooded with light and a voice from heaven reproved him for his presumption.) Painted in Botticelli’s neighbourhood church as a pendant to Ghirlandaio’s St Jerome, which is dated 1480. The two frescoes originally decorated the entrance wall of the choir. In 1564-66, when the wall was demolished, they were moved to opposite sides on the nave (they are now located between the third and fourth altars). Botticelli’s fresco was presumably commissioned (or at least paid for) by some member of the Vespucci, whose family shield is painted on the pediment. Frescoes commissioned from Botticelli in 1499 by Giorgio Antonio Vespucci for the arch of his family chapel were probably destroyed when the church was remodelled in the 1560s.
Florence. Santa Maria Novella.
Nativity. Fresco, 200 x 300.
The detached frescoed lunette was discovered in 1860 behind an altarpiece, and has been situated since 1958 on the inner wall of the façade, over the west door. Its original location is unknown (a theory that it came from the long-destroyed funerary chapel of Guaspare di Zanobi del Lami (or Lama), adorning a lunette above Botticelli’s famous Adoration of the Magi with Medici portraits (now in the Uffizi), is now thought unlikely because it is so much wider than the Adoration). Once ascribed to the school of Filippo Lippi, an attribution to Botticelli may have been published first in Berenson’s 1932 Lists. Usually dated around 1469-70. Restored in 1983-84.
Florence. Villa La Quiete (University of Florence).
Coronation of the Virgin with Saints. Wood, 279 x 191.
This recently discovered work has been identified as the picture noted by Vasari that was painted by Botticelli for the high altar of the church of San Francesco (now Sant'Andrea a Cennano) at Montevarchi. The figures of the Virgin and God the Father are very like those in Botticelli's San Marco Coronation (painted in 1490 and now in the Uffizi). The surrounding angels play a variety of musical instruments – trumpets, a portable organ, harp, lute, psaltery, lira da braccio, recorder and cymbals. The dense crowd of saints includes several Franciscans: Anthony of Padua (holding a flame), Louis of Toulouse (in a cope patterned with fleurs-de-lys), Francis himself and Bernardino of Siena (with his monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus). St Bartholomew (with knife), St Agnes (with lamb), the Baptist (in a camel skin), St Peter (with keys), St Paul (with sword), St Catherine (with a piece of her spiked wheel) and St Sebastian (with arrows) are also identifiable. The picture was sold in 1810, during the Napoleonic suppressions, and ended up in the church of San Jacopo a Ripoli. When the church was abandoned in 1886, the picture was taken to the Villa La Quiete, where it remained, apparently unnoticed, for more than a century. After its discovery, the picture was included in the major exhibition Denaro e Bellezza held at the Palazzo Strozzi in 2011-12. It is described in the exhibition catalogue as a work of 'Botticelli and workshop' and dated to the 1490s. A campaign, led by the tenor Luca Canonici, a native of Montevarchi, was launched in 2016 to return the picture to its original location.
Lady in Profile (so-called Simonetta Vespucci). Wood, 82 x 54.
The elaborate coiffure – the hair adorned with a clasp of osprey feathers and braided with pearls – was apparently known as a vespaia (conceivably a play on Simonetta’s name). The cameo, depicting Apollo and Marsyas, on the necklace is the mirror image of a Roman cameo that was acquired by Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1487 and is now in the Archaeological Museum at Naples. Until very recently the picture had generally been ascribed to Botticelli’s workshop, but restoration in 1995-96 has revealed its high quality. If it does represent Simonetta, it would be a very idealised portrayal and almost certainly a posthumous one. Simonetta died of consumption in April 1476 and, stylistically, the picture appears to date from the 1480s. Evidence of nails in the support suggests that the panel was not an independent picture but rather a wall panel (or spalliera). Recorded in Germany since 1825, and acquired by the museum in 1849 from the Frankfurt dealer Eberhard-Winter.
Geneva (Cologny). Bodmer Library.
Portrait of Dante. Canvas, 55 x 48.
The poet's familar aquiline profile is shown against against a pale greyish-blue background. He is dressed (pleated red tunic, red cappuccio over a white cap, and laurel wreath) as in Domenico di Michelino's fresco in Florence Cathedral. Nothing is known of the early history of the portrait, which was painted some hundred and fifty years after the poet's death. It might originally have hung in the study or library of a scholar or poet. It once belonged to the British art historian Robert Langton Douglas. Much restored and usually ascribed to Botticelli's workshop.
Glasgow. City Art Gallery.
Annunciation. Wood, 51 x 61.
There is a similar, even smaller panel, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The Glasgow picture was acquired by the Rev. John Sandford in the early 1830s from the Casa Rivani in Florence. It was bequeathed to the City of Glasgow in 1854 with the collection of the wealthy local coachbuilder Archibald McLellan. It was exhibited in the McLellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street from 1855 until 1902, when it was moved to the present Art Gallery at Kelvingrove. An old inscription on the back states that it came from San Barnaba. Rather neglected in the Botticelli literature, but regarded by Lightbown (1989) as a partly autograph work of about 1493, executed with studio assistance. Peter Humfrey, in his 2012 catalogue of Italian paintings in the Glasgow museums, also detects studio participation.
Granada. Capilla Real.
Agony in the Garden. Wood, 53 x 35.
Peter, James and John lie asleep, while Christ prays; the cave beneath the Mount of Olives represents his tomb and holds a sarcophagus. One of the paintings (mostly Flemish or Spanish) presented to the chapel by Queen Isabella the Catholic shortly before her death in 1504. It may have decorated a cupboard for relics in the chapel. A late work, close in style to the Mystic Nativity of 1500-1 in London and possibly painted under the influence of Savonarola (whose printed sermons included a woodcut of the Agony in the Garden which Botticelli may have designed).
Madonna and Child with Infant St John. Wood, 70 x 58.
Probably a studio work, executed from Botticelli's designs (though not necessarily under his supervision). The pose of the Virgin, adoring the Christ Child, is similar to that in a good many other paintings by Botticelli or his workshop. The picture was part of an important art collection formed in the early nineteenth century by Gustav Adolf von Ingenheim, half-brother of Frederick William III of Prussia. It remained with Ingenheim's descendants until 1941, when it was sold to the Sonderauftrag Linz (an unrealised museum planned by Adolf Hitler for his hometown). Exhibited at Munich after the War and transferred to Hanover in 1981.
Hanover. Kestner Museum.
Annunciation. Wood, 37 x 35.
A female donor, smaller than the Angel or Virgin, kneels in prayer in the foreground. This small, square panel is unlikely to have been a predella panel and was probably an independent work intended for a private house. It was published as a late work of Botticelli by Adolfo Venturi (in L'Arte (1921)), and the attribution was generally accepted for a time. While the design might be Botticelli's, the coarseness of the execution suggests the hand of an assistant. Bequeathed to the museum with the collection of August Kestner, who was Hanover's envoy to Rome.
London. National Gallery.
Adoration of the Kings. Wood, 50 x 136.
This long, very worn (and possibly unfinished) panel, perhaps originally part of a chest or wood panelling, has often been regarded as one of Botticelli’s earliest works (before 1470). An alternative view is that it is rather later (early 1470s), and that much of the execution (including the Virgin and Child and the kneeling king) is by Filippino Lippi, who was then living in Botticelli’s house. Botticelli was probably responsible for the figures on the left and extreme right. The rocky cliff and landscape in the centre appear to have been copied from a picture of St Francis by Van Eyck (of which there are versions in Turin and Philadelphia). First recorded (as a work of Filippo Lippi) in 1842 in the Palazzo Orlandini at Florence. Acquired (as by Filippino Lippi) in 1857 with the Lombardi-Baldi collection. The frame may be original.
Adoration of the Kings. Wood, 132 in dia.
The treatment of the subject is novel in showing the procession moving towards the Holy Family from the foreground rather than from one side. The mood is festive. The Holy Family and Three Magi, placed exactly in the centre, are surrounded by a retinue of over fifty attendants, courtiers, grooms, trumpeters and halberdiers. A monkey sits on a ledge on the left, another climbs the pillar of the ruined classical temple on the right, and a greyhound sits in the foreground. The young man holding the horse and turning to face the spectator is possibly a self-portrait. The picture is probably the tondo of the Epiphany mentioned by Vasari in the Casa Pucci at Florence. It is first certainly recorded, attributed to Botticelli, in 1807 in the Palazzo Guicciardini at Florence (where it hung with the famous tondo, now in Washington, of the same subject by Filippo Lippi). The Guicciardini family could have acquired it through the marriage of Luisa Ninfa Pucci and Francesco di Lorenzo Guicciardini in 1720. By 1854, the picture had entered the collection of William Fuller Maitland of Stansted, Essex, who already owned Botticelli's Mystic Nativity. After Fuller Maitland's death in 1876, the bulk of his collection was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Adoration of the Kings was bought (with an attribution to Filippino Lippi) by the National Gallery in 1878 for £800. It is probably Botticelli’s earliest important tondo (early 1470s).
Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 38 x 28.
The young man, shown full face, wears a scarlet cap and simple brown tunic edged with a narrow strip of fur. The portrait has probably been cut down and may have shown the sitter's arms. Bought by Lord Northwick in 1804 as a self-portrait of Masaccio (an attribution presumably suggested by its similarity to some of the portraits, actually by Filippino Lippi, in the Brancacci Chapel). Acquired for the National Gallery for 103 gns in 1859 at the Northwick sale by Charles Eastlake, who had recognised it as a Botticelli. Probably 1480s. The small pitted marks on the flesh paint were caused by air bubbles in the gesso ground.
Mars and Venus. Wood, 69 x 174.
The reclining Venus instructs a little satyr to wake Mars by blowing a conch shell into his ear. Other baby satyrs play with the War God’s discarded armour. The one on the right holds a large green fruit (a lemon?). The poses of Mars and Venus may have been inspired by a relief of Bacchus and Ariadne on an antique sarcophagus. Gombrich suggested that the wasps buzzing around the hollow tree in the right-hand corner may be a punning reference to the coat-of-arms of the Vespucci, and that the picture was painted to commemorate a marriage in that wealthy Florentine family. The panel is likely to date from the early 1480s. It may originally have served as the backboard of a chest or bench or as a bedhead. It was acquired in Florence, probably in the 1860s, by Alexander Barker of London. Barker, who had inherited a fortune from his father's fashionable bootmaking business on Ludgate Hill, was one of the first British collectors of Botticelli's works. At the sale of his collection at Christie's in 1874, the National Gallery bought two pictures attributed to Botticelli – the Mars and Venus and a supposed pendant, Venus with Cupids. The Venus with Cupids was actually the more expensive of the two pictures (1,550 gns against 1,000 gns), but it is clearly the work of some mediocre painter trying to imitate Botticelli.
Mystic Nativity. Canvas, 109 x 75.
The Holy Family, larger than the other figures, shelters under a penthouse. Shepherds and the Three Magi kneel at the sides. On the thatched roof three angels sing from a choir book. In the heavens twelve more angels dance hand-in-hand, holding olive branches from which dangle golden crowns. In the foreground, three men, crowned with olive, are embraced by angels, while devils hide in the crevices in the rocks. The picture is signed and dated in a cryptic Greek inscription at the top, which begins: ‘I Sandro made this picture at the end of the year 1500 in the troubles of the half time after the time according to the eleventh chapter of Saint John …’ Since the Florentine calendar dated the beginning of the new year from 25 March, the picture could have been painted in early 1501. The ‘half time after the time’ has been interpreted either as a year and a half earlier (presumably, mid-1499) or as half a millennium after the millennium (that is, the half-millennium of 1500, which many people believed could herald the Second Coming of Christ). The ‘troubles’ could refer, among other things, to the French invasion of northern Italy, Cesare Borgia’s campaign of terror in the Romagna and the political disorder in Florence following the expulsion of the Medici. It is generally supposed that the picture was painted under the influence of Savonarola (though the theory that the three men in the foreground represent the martyred friar and his two companions being welcomed into Paradise by angels is no longer taken seriously). Whatever its exact meaning, the picture appears to be making a deeply personal statement, and it seems likely that Botticelli painted it for himself or a close friend rather than for a client. Recorded in the Villa Aldobrandini, Rome, in the 1790s. It was one of many artworks acquired in Italy during the Napoleonic upheavals by William Young Ottley (a young English artist and writer whose family wealth derived from sugar plantations in the West Indies). Sold in 1837, after Ottley's death, and subsequently acquired for just £80 in 1847 by William Fuller Maitland of Stansted, Essex. Bought by the National Gallery in 1878 from Fuller Maitland's heirs for £1,500.
Scenes from the Life of Saint Zenobius. Two panels, 65/67 x 150.
St Zenobius, the first Bishop of Florence, is one of the patron saints of the city. One panel shows episodes from his early life: he rejects the bride chosen by his parents; he is baptised; his mother Sofia is baptised; and he is consecrated Bishop of Florence in Rome by Pope Damasus. The other panel shows three of the saint’s miracles: he exorcises two possessed youths who gnaw their own flesh; he restores to life the son of a noble lady of Gaul; and he restores the sight of a pagan beggar who had promised to convert to Christianity. Two other panels from the same series are in Dresden and New York. Once mistakenly regarded as early works, their dramatically intense, almost frenzied style is that of Botticelli’s last period (late 1490s or early 1500s). All four panels came from the Rondinelli collection at Florence, where they were first recorded in 1823. The National Gallery panels were bequeathed by Ludwig Mond in 1924.
Saint Francis. Wood, 50 x 32.
The saint, contemplating a crucifix, is represented in glory with a choir of ten angels. The angels play a variety of instruments: psaltery, recorder, drum, tambourine, harp, lute and fiddle. Formerly dated 1492 in a (false) inscription that was removed when the panel was cleaned in 1940. Probably a small single panel for private devotion rather than part of an altarpiece. Acquired, together with the Saint Vincent Ferrer by Cossa, in 1858 from the Costabili collection, Ferrara, for £202 16s 10d. Until the 1930s it was generally ascribed to Filippino Lippi. Since then, it has been given either to Botticelli, usually as an early work, or his school. Catalogued under ‘follower of Botticelli’ by the National Gallery from 1951 to 2001, but currently exhibited as by Botticelli himself with a dating of 1475-80.
Virgin and Child with St John and an Angel (no. 275). Wood, 85 in dia.
An attractive and well-preserved studio work. On the back is inscribed the name of the architect Giuliano da Sangallo, who carved the frame of Botticelli’s Bardi Altarpiece of 1485. Purchased in 1855 from Giovanni Giuseppe Biaconi of Bologna. Usually consigned to the reserve galleries in the basement. There are other versions of the composition in which there are two angels.
London. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Smeralda Brandini (Bandinelli). Wood, 65 x 41.
The young woman, viewed though a window, wears a diaphanous white robe over a crimson dress and holds a handkerchief, an emblem of status, in her left hand. Somewhat damaged, particularly in the face and hair; but usually accepted as an autograph early work of around 1470. The identity of the sitter, grandmother of the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli, is (unreliably) given in an inscription (not original) on the window sill. First recorded in 1865, when it was bought for 3,400 francs by Goupil at the Paris sale of the collection of the Swiss banker the Compte de Pourtalès. Acquired by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, at Christie’s in March 1867 for the surprisingly low price of £20. Rossetti had the picture cleaned by the London restorer and art critic Henry Merritt, and confessed to restoring the sitter's white head-dress himself. The portrait appears to have influenced some of Rossetti's well-known Renaissance-style depictions of women, such as the Donna della Finestra (begun in 1870). Sold by Rossetti in 1880 to the Anglo-Greek stockbroker Constantine Alexander Ionides, who bequeathed his collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1900. The removal of highly discoloured varnish and old repaint in a 2013-14 restoration revealed that the sitter's right eye and mouth had been scored through in an apparent act of vandalism.
London. Courtauld Institute Galleries.
The Trinity. Wood, 220 x 190.
Identified by Yukio Yoshiro (1925) as the altarpiece recorded by Vasari as painted for the convent for penitent courtesans in Florence (Sant’Elisabetta delle Convertite). This would explain the Magdalen on the left; John the Baptist, on the right, is the patron saint of Florence. It has been suggested that the curious small figures of Tobias and the Angel in the left foreground may refer to the penitents’ children. It has also been suggested that, since Tobias and the Angel was a subject favoured for votive paintings commissioned for travellers, the patron might have been a merchant who had sent his son on an errand. X-rays suggest that the figures of Tobias and the Angel were originally intended for the right background and were later shifted to the foreground. The quality of the picture is very uneven. Some parts (including the figures of Christ, the two saints and Tobias and the Angel) are likely to be by Botticelli himself, while other parts (including the cherubs and possibly the head of God the Father) are by an inferior hand. The altarpiece probably dates from about 1491-94, when the rebuilding of the church was completed. It was probably sold soon after 1808. Acquired by Sir A.H. Layard at the Monte di Pietà, Rome. Later owned by Lord Lee of Fareham, who claimed to have discovered it in a shop selling picture frames. Lord Lee gave his collection to the University of London in 1947. Four panels in Philadelphia, showing scenes from the Life of the Magdalen, probably belonged to the predella.
London. British Museum.
Allegory of Abundance or Autumn. Paper, 32 x 25.
This exquisite drawing was done in brown ink and wash, heightened with white, on paper toned with red chalk. It may depict the Goddess of Abundance who (in Ovid's Metamorphoses) carried fruit and scented flowers in one of the horns of the river god Achelous. The graceful, elongated figure wears a diaphanous classical dress with puff sleeves and an exaggeratedly high waist. She trips elegantly with her weight on her right leg, holding a putto by the hand. The putto holds a bunch of grapes and is accompanied by two other putti carrying fruit. The cornucopia she is holding, overflowing with flowers and fruit, is only lightly sketched in black chalk, as are two more putti, who help to support the horn. The drawing is usually dated to the period of the Primavera and Birth of Venus (late 1470s to mid-1480s). It cannot be directly associated with any known painting by Botticelli himself, though it does bear a resemblance to an impressively large (but rather feeble) painting of Abundance or Autumn by Botticelli's workshop or school at Chantilly. The drawing may once have belonged to Vasari (according to a nineteenth-century sales catalogue, it was set into a mount from his famous Libro). It is first recorded in 1856, when it was sold at Christie's with the collection of the banker-poet Samuel Rogers as a drawing by Mantegna. The attribution to Botticelli was published in 1876 by Sir Charles Robinson in his catalogue of the remarkable collection of Old Master drawings formed by the Scottish laird John Malcolm of Poltalloch. Malcolm's huge collection of drawings and prints was sold by his son to the British Museum in 1895 for £25,000.
Story of Nastagio degli Onesti. Three panels, 83 x 138.
The story is told in Boccaccio’s Decameron (Fifth Day, Novel 8). Nastagio, a wealthy young man from Ravenna, spent his fortune courting the daughter of Paolo Traversari, who refused his proposals because of her great beauty and nobler birth. One day in May, in the pine woods near Chiasso, he had a vision of a knight pursuing a maiden, tearing out her heart and throwing it to his dogs (illustrated by the first two panels). The knight told Nastagio that his unrequited love for the woman had driven him to take his own life, and as punishment for this cardinal sin he was condemned to hunt down her down each week on a Friday. Nastagio arranged a banquet in the woods on a subsequent Friday for Paolo Traversari’s family, so that they would witness the terrible hunt (illustrated by the third panel). Traversari’s daughter was so shocked by it that she agreed to marry Nastagio for fear of a similar fate. The three spalliera panels are from a set of four mentioned by Vasari as painted for the Casa Pucci. The fourth panel, illustrating the couple's wedding banquet, is in a private collection in Florence. The arms of the Pucci and Bini families appear on two of the panels, which were probably painted for the marriage chamber of Giannozzo di Antonio Pucci and Lucrezia di Piero di Giovanni Bini, who married in about 1482-83. Botticelli seems to have designed the scenes but left the actual execution largely to assistants or collaborators – including Bartolommeo di Giovanni (a specialist in the 'small-scale', who also collaborated with Domenico Ghirlandaio) and, for the fourth scene, Jacopo del Sellaio.
All four panels remained with the Pucci family until 1868. The English painter John Everett Mallais, who visited Florence in 1865, urged the National Gallery's director Charles Eastlake to buy them. But Eastlake was put off by the gruesome nature of the second scene, and they were sold instead to Alexander Barker of London. After passing through the collection of Frederick Richard Leyland (who had them cleaned) and the Aynard and Spiridon collections in France, the first three panels were presented to the Prado by Don Francisco Cambo in 1941. The fourth panel was formerly in the Watney collection, London. It was sold at Christie’s in 1967 for £100,000, and is now owned by a descendant of the Pucci.
Miami Beach (Florida). Bass Museum of Art.
Coronation of the Virgin. Canvas (transferred from panel), 270 x 176.
This large, imposing (but much restored) altarpiece was painted for a Camaldolese monastery – the Badia dei Santi Salvatore, Giusto e Clemente – at Volterra. It was seen in the sacristy by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1864), who said it was 'in Botticelli's manner but in a wretched condition'. The art treasures were removed from the monastery (which had been damaged by earthquakes) around 1880, and the altarpiece was sold. For some thirty years (1908-36) it was on loan to the museum at Basel. It was restored in Florence in 1956-57 and formed part of the 1963 gift of John and Johanna Bass to the City of Miami. The upper part of the picture is a partial replica of Botticelli's San Marco Coronation (now in the Uffizi). However, the lower part (showing two Camaldolese saints, a Camaldolese donor and Saints Giusto and Clemente) is quite different, and is closer to the style of Domenico Ghirlandaio. The picture has often been ascribed simply to Botticelli's workshop or school. Berenson saw the hand of Bartolomeo di Giovanni (an assistant and follower of Ghirlandaio), while Longhi suggested a collaboration between Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. The Botticelli-Ghirlandaio collaboration theory has been accepted by the museum (though it would be most unusual for different workshops to collaborate on the same altarpiece).
Madonna and Child and Angels (‘Madonna del Padiglione’). Wood, 65 in dia.
Two angels open the curtains of the red pavilion, while another supports the toddling Child. The Virgin, squeezing a jet of milk from her breast, is much larger than the three angels and her head is strangely out of proportion to her body. This small tondo, painted with almost miniaturist care, is probably a comparatively late work (mid-1490s). Horne (1908) plausibly suggested that it might be the ‘small circular picture by Sandro … the figures being tiny but very graceful and beautifully composed’ described by Vasari in the prior’s room in the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The prior, Don Guido di Lorenzo di Antonio, was a learned Cisterian and friend of Lorenzo de’ Medici. The monastery, in the Via degli Alfani in Florence, was suppressed in 1808. The tondo was given to the Ambrosiana by Marchesa Fiorenza Talenti (d. 1810).
Milan. Museo Poldi Pezzoli.
Virgin Teaching the Child to Read (‘Madonna del Libro’). Wood, 58 x 40.
The Madonna teaches the Child to read from a book of hours (the legible writing in which refers to the prophecy of the Virgin birth in the Book of Isaiah). He holds a miniature crown of thorns and three nails, symbolising his future Passion. This famous devotional picture is similar in composition to the Madonna of the Magnificat, and probably dates from the 1480s. Its superb quality was revealed by cleaning in 1951, when heavy repaint and old varnish were removed. The Virgin's mantle is worn in places, but the picture is otherwise well preserved.
Pietà. Wood, 107 x 71.
The dead Christ, supported on the Virgin’s lap, is surrounded by John and the three Maries; Joseph of Arithmathea or Nicodemus holds up the nails and crown of thorns. Usually identified as the ‘very beautiful Pietà with little figures’ described by Vasari beside the Panciatichi Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore at Florence. The patron was Donato di Antonio Cioni, a book illuminator, whose simple family altar was at the base of a pier of the church. Painted probably around the mid-1490s, the Pietà is a work of extraordinary religious intensity. (It may be significant that the Cioni family is known to have included followers of Savonarola.) Its altar was destroyed in 1629, but the picture remained in the church until at least 1755, when it is recorded in the sacristy. Bought by Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli from the Milanese dealer Giuseppe Baslini in 1855 for thirty gold napoleons. Generally accepted as a fully autograph work only since cleaning in 1951, when heavy overpaint was removed.
Coronation of the Virgin. Embroidery, 46 x 46.
The shield-shaped embroidery, stitched on linen with gold and silk thread, was the hood (cappuccio) of a cope. It depicts the Virgin kneeling in heaven at the feet of Christ, who places the crown on her head. Angels hold a canopy over their heads, while two monks (identified as the Blessed Bernardo Tolomei and Blessed Patrizio Patrizi) kneel at the sides. The coat-of-arms below, in the point of the hood, has been identified as that of John II of Portugal. It is thought that the cope may have been among the vestments made for the church of San Miniato al Monte at Florence. (The church contains the tomb of Jacopo di Lusitania, Cardinal of Portugal and John II's uncle.) The design was already attributed to Botticelli when the embroidery entered the museum in 1889. The attribution is supported by the similarity of the central figures with those in an engraving of the Assumption of the Virgin executed (probably by Francesco Rossellini) after a drawing by Botticelli.
Montelupo Fiorentino (near Empoli). San Giovanni Evangelista.
Madonna Enthroned with Four Saints. Wood, 176 x 163.
The saints are Sebastian (with arrow), Lawrence (with gridiron), John the Evangelist (with Gospel) and Roch (displaying his ulcerated thigh). The picture was cut down at the sides at the end of the eighteenth century, when it was inserted into a new altar. The predella contains five roundels (the centre one depicting the dead Christ and the others half-length saints) and small scenes of St Lawrence distributing Alms and the Martrydom of St Lawrence. Two other narrative scenes have been overpainted with grotesque designs. The altarpiece, which was once attributed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, is probably a late product of Botticelli's workshop.
Moscow. Pushkin Museum.
Angel; Virgin. Canvas (transferred), 45 x 13.
Possibly the two shutters ‘painted by the hand of Sandro di Botticelli’ to a Last Judgement by Fra Angelico mentioned in the 1503 will of Francesco del Pugliese. The will also mentions the Communion of St Jerome (now in New York). The two panels, which had belonged to Count Stroganoff before the Russian Revolution, were transferred from the Hermitage to the Pushkin Museum in 1928. Companion panels of St Jerome and St Vincent Ferrer, also from the Stroganoff collection, are still in the Hermitage.
Munich. Alte Pinakothek.
Pietà. Wood, 140 x 207.
At the entrance to the rocky tomb, the body of the beardless Christ is stretched across the knees of the Virgin among a group of seven saints. John the Evangelist comforts the swooning Virgin. The kneeling Mary Magdalene cradles Christ's head in her arms, pressing her face against his. Another Mary holds Christ's wounded feet, and the third Mary recoils in horror with her cloak drawn across her face. Three other saints, who did not witness Christ's descent from the cross, stand at the sides. Jerome (with a stone clasped to his breast) and Paul (with sword) are shown on the left bowing in veneration, and Peter (with key) is shown on the right in the act of benediction. Like the Poldi-Pezzoli Pietà, which it closely resembles in style and sentiment, this harrowing picture is a fairly late work. It has been commonly dated to the early or the mid-1490s. The picture is not mentioned by Vasari or other early writers and, until recently, all that was certainly known of its history was that it came from the Florentine church of San Paolino. However, a newly discovered inventory of 1518 (discussed by Alexander Röstel in the August 2015 Burlington Magazine) establishes that the picture stood over the high altar of San Paolino. It also reveals that the altarpiece had wings (though it is not known whether these were painted by Botticelli). The ancient little church of San Paolino (located in a little piazza near the Ognissanti, on the corner of Botticelli’s own street in Florence) was closed in 1810, and the Pietà was bought for Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria by Metzger (his agent in Florence) for 152½ zecchini in September 1814.
Madonna and Child with Two Angels. Wood, 100 x 71.
Recorded (without attribution) in 1644 in the Palazzo Farnese, Rome, and listed as a work of ‘Fra Filippino’ in an inventory of 1697. Inherited by Charles of Bourbon on the death of his mother Elisabetta Farnese, and among the pictures transferred to Naples in 1790. First attributed to the young Botticelli by Bode in 1883. The attribution was disputed for many years; but the removal of overpainting and several layers of varnish in 1957-58 confirmed Botticelli’s authorship beyond doubt. The composition was presumably suggested by Filippo Lippi’s famous Madonna and Child with Two Angels in the Uffizi.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Last Communion of St Jerome. Wood, 34 x 26.
The dying St Jerome, supported by two friars, kneels by the bed of his simple hut to receive communion from a priest, who is accompanied by two acolytes holding candles. The subject of this tiny picture was probably inspired by the description of the last rites of the saint given in Buonacorsi’s Life of Jerome, published in Florence in 1490. (The ninety-six-year-old Jerome, who had scorned the comfort of his bed and lay dying on the floor, at first refused communion because he felt unworthy of it. After beating his breast in penitence, he finally accepted the sacrament and immediately died.) Painted, probably in the early or mid-1490s, for Francesco del Pugliese, a wealthy wool merchant and ardent follower of Savonarola. It is mentioned in his will of 28 January 1503 as one of five pictures bequeathed to the chapel of his villa, Castello di Sommaia, on Monte Morello. By 1841 it was in the large picture collection of the famous Florentine statesman, historian and educator Marchese Gino Capponi. Acquired by Duveen in 1912, and bequeathed by Benjamin Altman to the Metropolitan Museum the following year. The fine frame (contemporary but not original to the picture) is ascribed to the workshop of Giuliano da Maiano. It contains a lunette attributed to Bartolomeo di Giovanni.
Three Miracles of Saint Zenobius. Wood, 65 x 140.
St Zenobius restores to life a dead youth whose funeral procession he has intercepted (left). He revives a messenger killed while bringing him a consignment of relics from St Ambrose (centre; the relics are shown in the open coffin). Deacon Eugenius receives water and salt blessed by Zenobius (right background) and then rushes across the piazza to revive a dead relative with the water (right foreground). Three other panels, two in London and one at Dresden, show other episodes from the life of the saint. The New York picture was bought from an antiquary in Milan by Sir William Neville Abdy in about 1885, and was acquired by the museum when Abdy's collection was sold at Christie’s in 1911. It is the least well preserved of the series, having been damaged somewhat by overcleaning.
Annunciation. Wood, 24 x 37.
This tiny panel is one of two pictures of the Annunciation recorded in 1648-49 in the Palazzo Barberini at Rome. It was exported from Italy in 1905 and acquired by Robert Lehman in 1928. Some of the older writers (Morelli, Horne and Venturi) ascribed it to Botticelli’s studio, but more recent critics (including Lightbown and Pope-Hennessy in his catalogue of the Italian pictures in the Lehman collection) consider it fully autograph. Usually dated around the mid-1490s. There is a similar picture, perhaps partly autograph, in Glasgow.
Madonna and Child with Two Angels. Wood, 100 x 71.
The panel (presumably rectangular originally) has been cut into an oval and damaged by old attempts at cleaning. It is almost a replica of Filippo Lippi’s famous painting in the Uffizi. It appears to have come from the church of San Tommaso in Castelfranco di Sopra, whence it passed at the end of the eighteenth century to the Villa Baglioni in Cerreto. It was bequeathed to the museum in 1929 with the Havemeyer collection. Originally ascribed to Fra Filippo, it was attributed to the youthful Botticelli by Berenson in his 1932 Lists. The attribution has often been doubted (eg. by Federico Zeri, who, in his 1971 catalogue of the Florentine pictures in the Metropolitan Museum, assigns the picture simply to an anonymous follower of Lippi).
New York. Pierpont Morgan Library.
Horses and Spectators (fragment). Canvas, 32 x 34.
A fragment from the left-hand side of a monochrome painting – probably a cartoon or modello – representing the Adoration of the Magi. Two other fragments are in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The canvas had already been cut up by 1804, when the fragments were included in a London sale of art works belonging to William Young Ottley. Pierpont Morgan acquired his fragment in 1909 from the painter and dealer Charles Fairfax Murray.
Oxford. Christ Church Picture Gallery.
Two Panels of Five Sibyls seated in Niches. Wood, 74 x 140/141.
The Sibyls, gesturing from alcoves, are identified by inscriptions. The Babylonian, Libyan, Delphic, Cimmerian and Erythraean are shown on one panel (JB 35). The Samian, Cumean, Hellespontic, Phrygian and Tiburtine are shown on the other (JB 36). The panels are likely originally to have ornamented some furniture or wood panelling. They were acquired in Italy by Willian Fox-Strangways, when he was charge d'affaires in Tuscany, and donated by him to his old college in 1828 as works of Botticelli. The attribution was tentatively accepted by Crowe abd Cavalcaselle (1864) but rejected by subsequent critics (including Berenson (1899), who saw the hand of his fictional 'Amico di Sandro'). The removal of heavy repaint from the panels in a restoration of 1948 enabled their quality to be better appreciated. They were probably painted in Botticelli's workshop around the early or mid-1470s. One panel (JB 35) is very similar in style to early works of Botticelli himself (compare the Uffizi Fortitude of 1470). The other panel (JB 36) has been ascribed to the young Filippino Lippi, working as Botticelli's assistant or collaborator.
The Villa Lemmi Frescoes. Each roughly 220 x 280.
One fresco shows Venus and the Three Graces offering gifts to a young woman. The other shows Venus leading a young man towards a female assembly personifying the Liberal Arts. The frescoes were discovered in 1873 under whitewash in the loggia of the Villa Lemmi, a property originally owned by Giovanni Tornabuoni, uncle of Lorenzo de’ Medici, at Chiasso Macerelli near Careggi. They suffered considerable damage when they were detached from the wall. A third fresco, representing an old man (Giovanni Tornabuoni?) embracing a child (his nine-year old daughter Ludovica?), disintegrated soon after it was uncovered. G. B. Cavalcaselle, as Ispettore Generale, allowed the two surviving frescoes to be sold in 1882 to the Louvre on the grounds that they were too damaged to be exhibited in Italy. It was traditionally assumed that the frescoes were painted to celebrate the marriage, on 15 June 1486, of Lorenzo Tornabuoni, Giovanni’s son, and Giovanna, daughter of Maso degli Albizzi, and that the young man and woman in the frescoes are portraits of the young pair. However (as pointed out by Thieme as long ago as 1897) the young woman does not resemble Giovanna but rather the young woman to the right of her in Ghirlandaio’s famous fresco of the Visitation in Santa Maria Novella. The young woman in question was unidentified until 1985, when Patricia Simons (in an unpublished doctoral thesis) plausibly suggested she was Lorenzo's second wife, Ginevra Gianfigliazzi. If this identification is correct, the frescoes would date from 1490-91. (The precise date of Lorenzo's second marriage is not known, but Ginevra's dowry was paid in October 1491.) Some six or seven years later, on 21 August 1497, Lorenzo was executed for his part in a conspiracy to restore the Medici to power.
Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 57 x 39.
The long-haired young man is shown three-quarter face, looking to the left. The portrait was acquired by the Louvre in 1882 as a work of Filippino Lippi. Ulmann (1893) ascribed it to Botticelli. Berenson (1901) claimed it for his ‘Amico di Sandro’, but later gave it to Botticelli himself. Another version, purchased in 1933 by the National Gallery of Scotland as the original by Botticelli, was recognised as a modern forgery in 1951.
Virgin and Child with St John (‘Madonna of the Rose Garden’). Wood, 93 x 69.
The influence of Filippo Lippi is very marked. Bought as a work of Botticelli by Louis XVIII from a dealer called Mauco in 1824. Given to Filippo Lippi by Waagen in 1839, but returned to Botticelli by Ulmann (1893). Accepted as an autograph very early work by most subsequent opinion (though the figure of the little St John on the left has sometimes been ascribed to a collaborator).
Virgin and Child (‘Madonna Guidi’). Wood, 73 x 40.
A variant of Filippo Lippi’s Munich Madonna. First recorded in the Guidi collection at Faenza, it was attributed to Botticelli – as a youthful work made in Filippo’s studio – in 1902 by Adolfo Venturi. The attribution has had mixed success. It was, for example, rejected by Lightbown in his scholarly 1978 monograph but accepted by Zöllner in his 2005 book on Botticelli.
Virgin and Child with Five Angels. Wood, 64 x 42.
This picture, which entered the Louvre in 1861 from the Campana collection and was traditionally thought to be by Filippo Lippi, is another of the substantial number of Filippesque Madonnas that were re-ascribed to the youthful Botticelli in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. In this case, the attribution was first made by Wilhelm von Bode in 1887 and was supported initially mainly by German writers. It was tentatively accepted by Lightbown (1978), but remains contentious.
Paris. Museé Jacquemart-André.
Flight into Egypt. Canvas (transferred), 130 x 99.
This curious picture was acquired from the Florentine dealer Stefano Bardini in 1887. While some early (mainly German) literature treated it as a late work of Botticelli, only the design could possibly be his. It was catalogued for the 2003-4 exhibition in Paris and Florence (Botticelli: From Lorenzo the Magnificent to Savonarola) as a studio work of 1495-1500. Other critics have thought it more likely, if it was designed by Botticelli at all, to have been painted after his death from his drawings.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 62 x 48.
This small Madonna was acquired by Nélie Jacquemart in Florence as a work of Andrea Verrocchio. While the attribution to Verrocchio was soon abandoned, the panel is much in his style and is often called a work of his studio or following. The attribution to Botticelli – as a youthful work painted under Verrocchio's influence and possibly in his workshop – is conjectural, but has been accepted by the museum. Old repaint and varnish were removed in a 1995 restoration.
Pasadena. Norton Simon Foundation.
Virgin and Child with Adoring Angel. Wood, 85 x 66.
One of two versions: the other is in the Chicago Art Institute. First recorded in 1877 in the collection of J.F. Austen of Horsmonden, Kent, where it was ascribed to Ghirlandaio. It was among the pictures attributed by Berenson in 1899 to his ‘Amico di Sandro’. Sold in 1921, and with Duveen in New York until the 1960s. Sometimes (eg by Van Marle, Berenson and Lightbown) considered a studio or school picture and sometimes (eg by Gamba, Mesnil and Salvini) an autograph early work of Botticelli.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art (J.G. Johnson Collection).
Life of Mary Magdalene. Four panels, 19 x 42.
The four panels, originally painted on a single plank of wood, are very abraded. The first shows the saint’s conversion after hearing Christ preach; the second the saint anointing Christ’s feet in the house of Simon; and the third the Noli me Tangere meeting after Christ’s Resurrection. The fourth panel shows two apocryphal scenes: as a hermit in the Alps, the saint is carried to heaven by angels to receive sustenance and she receives her last communion from her brother St Maximinus. The panels are evidently from a predella – almost certainly that to an altarpiece mentioned by Vasari as painted by Botticelli for the Convertite convent for repentant prostitutes. The main panel of the altarpiece is probably the Trinity in the Courtauld Institute Galleries, London. The four panels were bought by Johnson (on the recommendation of Herbert Horne, who had identified them as from the Convertite altarpiece) in 1908 from the Florentine dealer Luigi Grassi for 160,000 lire.
Portrait of Lorenzo di Ser Lorenzi (called ‘Lorenzano’). Wood, 51 x 37.
The name of the sitter is inscribed across the top of the picture. Born in 1458, he was professor of medicine and physics at the University of Pisa, and made Latin translations of Galen, Hippocrates and Aristotle. He committed suicide on 2 June 1502 by throwing himself down a well, depressed at not being able to afford a house he had bought. To judge by the sitter’s age, the portrait cannot be earlier than the 1490s. Purchased by Johnson (on Berenson’s recommendation) in 1909 from Baron Michele Lazzaroni, an Italian collector and dealer living in Paris. Working with a restorer known as 'Verzetta' (real name Louis Vergetas), Lazzaroni often altered or overpainted pictures that passed through his hands. In the case of the Philadelphia portrait, he seems to have 'restored' a picture that was already damaged and repainted.
Piacenza. Museo Civico.
Virgin Adoring the Child with St John. Wood, 96 in dia.
A large tondo, usually dated about 1480 and considered to have been painted partly by an assistant. The painting of the little St John is inferior to that of the Virgin and Child. From the Castello dei Bardi, near Piacenza, where it is recorded in 1642 among the possessions of Federico II Landi. Acquired by the Italian State in 1860, allocated to the Municipio of Piacenza, hung originally in the public library and transferred to the Museo Civico in 1903. Extensive repainting (including false golden haloes) was removed in a 1957-58 restoration. The fine frame, carved with fruits and leaves, has been ascribed to the workshop of Giuliano da Maiano.
Prato. Musei Diocesani.
Crucifixion. Wood, 158 x 99.
The moulded and painted figure of the crucified Christ is set against a plain black background. This little known picture came from the Dominican convent of San Vincenzo at Prato. It was attributed to Botticelli, as a late work, in Alessandro Cecchi's 2005 monograph.
Rome. Vatican. Sistine Chapel.
The documentation for the frescoes is incomplete. At least four of the twelve (originally fourteen) scenes on the long walls of the chapel had already been painted by 27 October 1481, when Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli signed a contract to paint the remaining scenes for a fee of 250 ducats for each scene. Peace negotiations between Rome and Florence had been concluded only shortly before (December 1480), and it was probably a gesture of conciliation for Lorenzo de’ Medici to allow the pick of Florentine painters to decorate the new Vatican chapel. Vasari says that Pope Sixtus put Botticelli in charge of the entire project. Some recent opinion places Perugino in this role, but the surviving documents seem to treat the four masters as equals. Each seems to have been allotted responsibility for particular scenes and to have used his own workshop assistants. Botticelli’s three scenes were probably painted between May 1481 (when he was working on the fresco, now in the Uffizi, of the Annunciation for San Martino alla Scala) and August 1482 (when he is recorded back in Florence).
Temptations of Christ. 346 x 555.
The temptations are shown in the background: Satan (disguised as a friar) tries to persuade Christ to turn stones into bread and throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple, and is cast into an abyss after offering Christ all the kingdoms of the earth. The sacrificial scene in the foreground has not been identified with certainty. The usual interpretation (which goes back over a hundred years to Ernst Steinmann’s classic studies of the Sistine frescoes) is that the scene shows the leper healed by Christ making a thanksgiving offering (a bird ‘killed in an earthen vessel over running water’) to the high priest. Other theories are that it refers to St Paul’s comparison in Hebrews of an Old Testament blood sacrifice with the Eucharist and that it represents the Old Testament priest Nehemiah (who was a reformer of religious rites and patron of building works) as a precursor of Pope Sixtus. The prominent Renaissance building, representing the Temple of Jerusalem, is the hospital of Santo Spirito, built by Sixtus IV. The graceful female carrying faggots to the altar is sometimes imagined to be a portrait of Caterina Sforza. (The oak leaves on the faggots refer to the Della Rovere family, while the snake coiled around the leg of the little boy bearing grapes may allude to the Sforza (whose coat-of-arms shows a snake devouring a child).) Caterina's husband, Sixtus IV's nephew Girolamo Riario, has been identified either as the man holding a baton (far right) or the man with a heavy gold chain (directly behind the High Priest). Another papal nephew, Giuliano della Rovere (the future Julius II), is probably the cardinal standing pensively in the right foreground with a white handkerchief in his hands.
Scenes from the Life of Moses. 349 x 558.
The fresco shows no less than seven scenes from the early life of Moses (Exodus, I-XIV). He slays the Egyptian and flees to the land of Midian (right); he drives away shepherds who had prevented the daughters of Jethro from watering their flock and draws water for the sheep from the well (centre); he removes his shoes on Mount Horeb and kneels before the burning bush (left background); and he leads his chosen people out of Egypt (left foreground). Moses – wearing a bright yellow tunic and green cloak – is easily identifiable in all the scenes.
Punishment of Korah. 349 x 570.
The biblical source is Numbers, XVI, 1-40. Moses, standing before the sacrilegious altar, calls down the wrath of God on Korah and his fellow conspirators. On the right, one of the blasphemers is about to be stoned. On the left, the earth opens up and swallows Dathan and Abiram. On the Arch of Constantine, in the centre of the picture, is inscribed the Latin text from Hebrews: ‘Let no man take office on himself, unless he be called by God, as Aaron was’. This is possibly a reference to the Archbishop of Krain, who proclaimed the General Council at Basle in March 1482 aimed at weakening the powers of the Papacy.
Figures of Popes. 210 x 80.
Vasari says that, in addition to the three large biblical scenes, Botticelli painted several of the twenty-eight portraits of Popes above, in the niches between the windows. Of the dozen or so portraits that have been ascribed to Botticelli or his assistants by modern criticism, those of Sixtus II and Stephen are most noteworthy.
Rome. Vatican. Biblioteca Apostolica.
Drawings for Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. Parchment, 33 x 48.
The seven sheets, containing a Chart of Hell and illustrations for seven cantos from the Inferno, are from the same series as the eighty-five sheets in Berlin. The Chart of Hell seems to be the only illustration in the entire series that was completely finished; two other Vatican drawings are partly coloured. Recorded in Paris in the early seventeenth century in the possession of the French bibliophile Alexandre Peteau, the seven sheets were rediscovered in the Vatican Library in 1887, incorporated into a volume that Pope Alexander VIII had acquired with the library of Queen Christina of Sweden.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Virgin and Child with Six Angels. Wood, 170 in dia.
The picture is rich in floral symbols of the Virgin. The angels hold long-stemmed lilies, the vases are filled with pink and white roses, one angel wears a wreath of roses, another is garlanded with white jasmine, and a third has a sprig of juniper around his wrist. The Child holds a pomegranate, symbolising the Resurrection. This unusually large tondo is recorded in a Borghese inventory of 1693 as a work of Ghirlandaio, an attribution it retained until the nineteenth century. First attributed to Botticelli in 1864 by Crowe and Cavalcaselle. The execution appears to have been left largely or entirely to his workshop. The pose of the little St John, kneeling to the left of the throne, resembles that of the naked youth in Filippino Lippi’s fresco of the Raising of the Son of Theophilus in the Carmine.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
St Jerome; St Vincent Ferrer. Canvas (transferred), 45 x 26.
The penitent St Jerome kneels before a crucifix, clutching a stone with which to beat his breast. The other saint is often called Dominic, but is almost certainly the Dominican preacher Vincent Ferrer. St Vincent was known for his warnings of the coming Apocalypse, and the saint points to a vision of Christ as judge. The two panels were in the Palais Stroganoff before the Revolution, framed together with two panels of the Annunciation (now at Moscow). The four panels probably formed the wings of a devotional image. Sometimes ascribed to Botticelli’s workshop.
Strasbourg. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Madonna and Child with Two Angels. Wood, 107 x 75.
The disproportionately large Child holds a pomegranate and sucks the juice from his fingers. One of a number of more or less similar Madonnas that are attributed to Botticelli as early works. The composition, which is particularly close (in reverse) to that of the Madonna at Naples, derives ultimately from Filippo Lippi's famous Virgin and Child with Two Angels in the Uffizi. Acquired, like most early Italian pictures at Strasbourg, by Wilhelm von Bode, who was tasked with rebuilding the museum after its collection had been destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War. Published by Bode himself as an autograph early Botticelli. Berenson called it merely a studio work, but it has been most often accepted as by Botticelli. Damaged in parts (including the Virgin's face) and considerably retouched.
Turin. Galleria Sabauda.
Venus. Wood, 174 x 77.
A replica, set against a plain dark background, of the goddess in the Birth of Venus. Quite commonly attributed to Botticelli himself at one time, but now generally regarded as a product of his workshop or circle. First recorded in 1844 in the Palazzo Feroni at Florence. Subsequent owners included the English clergyman Walter Davenport Bromley, the Tory politician Lord Ashburton (who bought it at Christie's for 100 guineas in 1863) and the Italian entrepreneur Riccardo Gualino (who donated it to the Italian State in 1930). A slight variant, in which Venus's loins are concealed by flowers, also came from the Palazzo Feroni; after passing through the Bromley Davenport and Ashburton collections in England, it was acquired by the American Art Association in New York and later belonged to the Swiss bibliophile Martin Bodmer. There is a third version at Berlin. The three versions closely replicate the contours of Botticelli's original Venus – evidence that they were made with the aid of a cartoon or stencil.
Urbino. Palazzo Ducale.
No documents or early sources mention Botticelli as a designer of intarsia. The designs at Urbino attributed to Botticelli by modern critics (pre-eminently, Roberto
Longhi in his 1927 Piero della Francesca) include the figures of Charity and Faith (93/97 x 48/43) in the Studiolo and those of Apollo and Minerva (157/158 x 67/69) on the panels of the door leading from the Sala degli Angeli to the Sala d’Onore. The work may date from about 1476 (the year inscribed on the ceiling of the Studiolo).
Venice. Fondazione Cini.
Judgement of Paris. Wood, 81 x 197.
The shepherd-prince Paris, asked to judge which of the three goddesses Juno, Minerva and Venus was the most beautiful, hands the prize of the golden apple to Venus. All three goddesses, usually shown nude, are dressed in classical costume. There is the interesting detail in the left background of a merchant ship being careened (turned on its side for maintenance). An almost identical detail is found in Botticelli's fresco of the Punishment of Korah in the Sistine Chapel. This long picture is likely to have been a spalliera panel, forming part of the decoration or furnishings of a room. It has rarely been mentioned in the Botticelli literature, but it has featured in a number of recent loan exhibitions (including Botticelli: Likeness, Myth, Devotion, held at Frankfurt in 2009-10). It is usually called a product of Botticelli's workshop and dated around 1485-90.
Vienna. Akademie der Bildenen Künste.
Madonna and Child with Two Angels. Wood, 114 in dia.
An angel offers the pink roses gathered in his skirts to the Christ Child, who has collected some of the flowers in the front of his white shirt. This large tondo is from the Casa Canigiani on the Via de' Bardi, Florence. It came to the Vienna Academy in 1889 from the Duke of Liechtenstein's collection. It was published as an autograph work of Botticelli in Hermann Ulmann's 1893 German monograph. Later monographs (Horne (1908), Salvini (1958) and Lightbown (1978)) attributed it to Botticelli's workshop. It is, quite likely, a replica of a lost original of around 1485-95. It was included (as 'Botticelli') in the Botticelli Reimagined exhibition held in 2016 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Warsaw. Muzeum Narodowe.
Madonna and Child with St John and an Angel. Wood, 108/111 in dia.
One of many circular Madonnas (or tondi) produced by Botticelli and his large and prolific workshop. The types of the Madonna and Child are like those in Botticelli's works of the late 1480s (such as the San Barnaba Altarpiece or the Madonna della Melagrana). Two other (arguably inferior) versions are known. One was formerly in the notable London collections of George Salting and Robert Benson, and was sold at Christie's, New York, as a studio work in 2009; the other was formerly owned by an American college (the Akron Institute in Ohio). The Warsaw picture was part of an important art collection formed in the early nineteenth century by Count Gustav Adolf von Ingenheim, half-brother of Frederick William III of Prussia. It remained in the ownership of the Count's descendants in Silesia until 1946, when it was seized by the Communist Polish administration in reparation for paintings destroyed during the German occupation.
Washington. National Gallery of Art.
Adoration of the Magi. Wood, 70 x 104.
Possibly the Adoration, ‘held to be the finest of all Botticelli’s works’, mentioned by the ‘Anonimo Magliabechiano’ as painted during Botticelli’s visit to Rome (1481-82). In the background are classical ruins, and the groom restraining the horse on the right may derive from the famous Roman sculptures of the Dioscuri on the Quirinale. The oak trees growing to the right of the stable may allude to the device of the Della Rovere family, for whom the picture may have been painted. A French engraver named Pervallis is said to have acquired it in Rome, and it was sold by Dominique Vivant Denon, founder of the Musée Napoléon, to Czar Alexander I of Russia in 1808. It was one of twenty-one masterpieces bought by Andrew H. Mellon from the Hermitage for almost seven million dollars between 1929 and 1931 and given to the American nation in 1937. The picture is exceptionally well preserved (though the colours have darkened somewhat).
Portrait of a Youth. Wood, 45 x 32.
The young man (long fair wavy hair, red cap and red-brown tunic) is shown almost full face. The hand on the chest is probably a gesture of modesty, submission or fidelity, and the picture could have been an engagement or betrothal portrait. Like the rather similar, perhaps slightly earlier, portrait in the National Gallery, London, it was once ascribed to Masaccio and was given to Botticelli by Crowe and Cavalcaselle. It is usually dated around 1480-85. It was bought by Baron Triquetti for 2,600 francs at the sale of the Compte de Pourtalès’s collection in 1865, and remained in France until 1920, when it was acquired by Duveen and crossed the Atlantic. Bequeathed by Mellon in 1937. The dark background has been overpainted.
Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici. Wood, 76 x 53.
Giuliano, grandson of Cosimo and brother of Lorenzo, was murdered at the age of twenty-five in the Pazzi conspiracy of 26 April 1478. This is possibly a posthumous portrait. The turtledove on the dead branch and the shuttered window may be symbols of his death. Alternatively (but less plausibly), they could symbolise Giuliano’s mourning for his mistress Simonetta Vespucci, who died in April 1476. Attributed either to Botticelli or his workshop. There are other, smaller versions (almost identical but for the omission of the dove and shuttered window) at Bergamo and Berlin. Yet another profile portrait of Giuliano – in which the sitter faces left rather than right and the background is a lightish off-white – was once in the collection of the New York investment banker Otto Kahn and is now in a private collection in Milan; it has been variously considered an earlier version, painted when the sitter was still alive, a replica by Botticelli's studio and a modern fake. A Botticelli portrait – possibly the Washington one – is likely to have served as the model for the profile of Giuliano on the famous double-sided commemorative medal cast by Bertoldo di Giovanni in 1478. The Washington portrait appears to have belonged to Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici (whose emblem of a queen bee surrounded by worker bees appears in a red seal on the back). By 1796 it was in the possession of Marquis Alfonso Tacoli-Canacci of Florence, and it remained with his descendents until 1940, when it was sold to Count Vittorio Cini of Venice. When Cini was arrested by the Germans in 1943 and interned in Dachau concentration camp, the picture was sold to help raise money to bribe officials to obtain his release. Acquired by Samuel Kress (from Wildenstein & Co.) in 1949.
Virgin Adoring the Child. Wood, 59 in dia.
This small tondo is generally dated around 1480-90. It was repeated in many workshop versions. Previously in the Paris collections of Charles Paravey and of his daughter Mme Raynaud with an attribution to Filippo Lippi. It was auctioned at the Hôtel Drouot for 1.8 million francs in 1929, and was recognised as a work of Botticelli by Berenson in a letter to Duveen. Bought by Kress in 1947. Somewhat abraded and restored (especially in the flesh tones).
Madonna and Child. Wood, 77 x 57.
From the Corsini Villa di Mezzomonte, near Florence, where it is first recorded in 1763. In about 1871, it was transferred to the Palazzo Corsini in Via Parione, Florence, where it was described in guidebooks as a work of Filippino Lippi. Sold to Duveen in 1930 and bought by Mellon in 1936. Now attributed either to Botticelli or his workshop. Probably comparatively early (late 1460s or early 1470s). Abraded and retouched (especially the Child and the Virgin’s dress); the landscape on the right is a 1936 restoration.
Madonna and Child with Two Angels. Wood, 87 x 58.
This heavily restored picture is one of a number of variants of Filippo Lippi’s famous Madonna and Child with Two Angels in the Uffizi that have been ascribed to Botticelli as very early works. The two versions closest to the Washington picture are those in the Innocenti Gallery, Florence, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. First recorded (as a work of Filippo Lippi) in 1914 in the Sedelmeyer collection, Paris; later owned by Geneviève Garvan Brady of New York, and acquired in 1942 by Kress. The attribution to the youthful Botticelli (probably first made by Berenson in 1926, when he was acting as a consultant to Duveen) has often been doubted, but is maintained by Boskovits in the 2003 catalogue of fifteenth-century Italian paintings at Washington. The angel gazing out of the picture has been supposed to be a self-portrait.