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03 May 2017

Botticelli and the Search for the Divine

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reviewed by Michael Stiefel

Sandro Botticelli's artistic approach changed under the influence of the reforming friar Savonarola. Judgment of Paris, Minerva and the Centaur, and Venus are mythical works executed with a graceful style. Later paintings, Adoration of the Magi, Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John, and Mystic Crucifixion are severe religious compositions.

The pivotal work is Saint Augustine in His Study. Augustine, surrounded by scientific books and instruments, a clock, and his bishop's miter, contemplates the spiritual conflict over whether to see the world with reason and intellect, or revelation and intuition. Botticelli put his own struggle into the fresco. The colors are muted. The clothing folds and expressions are depicted with minimal effects. The picture has meager depth. No longer mythical, the setting is not yet purely religious.

Through his travails, Botticelli merged the classic idea of artistic storytelling with the developing desire for realistic depiction.

Exhibition Botticelli and the Search for the Divine link
Start date 15 Apr 2017
End date 09 Jul 2017
Presenter Museum of Fine Arts, Boston link
Venue 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, USA map
Image Sandro Botticelli, Saint Augustine in his Study, ca. 1480, detached fresco, Church of San Salvatore in Ognissanti, Florence, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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