Botticelli - Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Botticelli - Virgin and Child (Madonna of the Book) 1478-80

Botticelli - Virgin and Child (Madonna of the Book) 1478-80

I am not a Botticelli expert nor all that incredibly knowledgeable about the Pre and Renaissance art movement - but it's that very work that influenced me early on during my first year at School of Visual Arts. With that, this post will be relatively brief.

The Boston MFA had a wonderful Botticelli exhibit recently. I am a little behind putting this up. The show just closed a week or so ago but hopefully these images will be inspiring. It was the largest show of his work and his predecessors ever in the United States.

Through my instructors and required trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the History of Art class, I was introduced to this art period and the first things that I was attracted to was the flattened perspectives and the basic color palettes. The colors, while advanced, did seem very 'out of the tube' to me. The work I did throughout college and a little after had its base in this work.

At the time, while I was interested in some of the work, I was more attracted to contemporary illustrators of the time. That was the 120 year old me more interested in what was happening 'now' than 500 years earlier. The influence was there but I didn't pay too much attention to it or really its history at that time.

Visiting this show, I noticed within myself my appreciation of art history and the work has grown. Especially in the craft of the work itself. I think this likely has a lot to do with being an instructor and discussing history and artists from all time periods fairly regularly. I can't say that it will alter my own working methods now, but as most shows are to me, it was incredibly inspiring and all I wanted to do after I left was draw or paint.

Below are some photos and brief notes of things that stood out in the exhibit.

Antonio del Pollaiuolo - St. Michael the Archangel Killing the Dragon, 1465-70

Antonio del Pollaiuolo - St. Michael the Archangel Killing the Dragon, 1465-70

This painting above was particularly interesting to me. Del Pollaluolo's work actually help shift Botticelli's work in that his figures became a bit more athletic in physique that previously.

This work interesting because the subject matter is kick ass but what jumped out to me was the incredible amount of visual tangents in the piece. The first visit to the show, I was with a student and they know that I am one to make sure that the piece doesn't have tangents because it really distracts the viewer. 

I am thinking during this time period, these tangents were created as a compositional element to keep the eye moving around the piece. Maybe we've gotten more advance with tangent use a few hundred years later?

I challenge everyone looking at it to see how many tangents you can find. There are tons!

Still, it's a cool piece of art.

Sandro Botticelli - Madonna of the Loggia, 1467

Sandro Botticelli - Madonna of the Loggia, 1467

This was one of Botticelli's earliest Madonna and Child paintings above. This is a bit surface-y, but I love the frame.

Botticelli - Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist, 1505

Botticelli - Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist, 1505

The foliage and ground in this painting above just blew me away. It is likely one of my favorites in the exhibit. The minute details, composition, color and mood are amazing. He did this one later in life and during the pinnicle of his abilities.

Botticelli - The Nativity, 1482-85

Botticelli - The Nativity, 1482-85

The alter-piece painting below was interesting to see because I was able to see the wood structure it was painted on. It might be somewhat present in this first photo but when looking at the painting, you can really see how the wood curved over time. 

Still, the art is in stellar condition being over 500 years old.

Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Sebastian, Lawrence, John the Evangelist and Roch (Altarpiece of Montelupo), 1499

Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Sebastian, Lawrence, John the Evangelist and Roch (Altarpiece of Montelupo), 1499

Detail

Detail

One of the centerpieces of the exhibit, is Botticelli's study for 'The Birth of Venus'. It is an incredibly tall painting. I had to stand back quite a few feet to take this photo so it doesn't look warped to give you an idea of size.

Beautifully rendered and a sneak peek into what will become one of the best known pieces in the history of art. Unfortunately, The Birth of Venus wasn't at this show.

To finish off this quick post, something jumped out at me going through the show which amused me. It was the blatant similarities of how Botticelli painted feet in his paintings. Even though the paintings were created many years from one another, it seemed like he used one set of feet. Did he trace them? Did he have a master sketch and just flipped the drawing as needed? They appear to be the same elongated feet and toes in every piece.