Botticelli – two London exhibitions

Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection, The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2, until 15thMay 2016

Sandro Botticelli Centre of Hell. The full figure of Lucifer (Divine Comedy, Inferno XXXIV,2), around 1481-1495, Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 63,2 x 46,3 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

Sandro Botticelli
Centre of Hell. The full figure of Lucifer (Divine Comedy, Inferno XXXIV,2), around 1481-1495,
Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 63,2 x 46,3 cm
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

In 1882 the 12th Duke of Hamilton sold the collection of drawings by Sandro Botticelli which depicted scenes from Dante’s Divine Comedy as well as almost all his fabled collection of illuminated manuscripts to the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett (Prints and Drawings Museum).

Sandro Botticelli Dante and Beatrice in the second planetary sphere of Paradise (Divine Comedy, Paradiso VI), around 1481-1495, Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 32,5 x 47,6 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

Sandro Botticelli
Dante and Beatrice in the second planetary sphere of Paradise (Divine Comedy, Paradiso VI), around 1481-1495,
Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 32,5 x 47,6 cm
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

Now we are fortunate – and I do emphasise that – to have some thirty of them in this exhibition alongside some of the illuminated manuscripts including the stunning Hamilton Bible, which appears in Raphael’s portrait of Pope Leo X in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Cristoforo Orimina Genesis (in the so called “Hamilton-Bible”), around 1350-60 book illumination and gold on parchment, 37,5 x 26,5 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Jörg P. Anders

Cristoforo Orimina
Genesis (in the so called “Hamilton-Bible”), around 1350-60
book illumination and gold on parchment, 37,5 x 26,5 cm
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Jörg P. Anders

Dating from 1480-1495 Botticelli’s drawings on vellum depict scenes from the three parts of Dante’s work. In Hell and Purgatory Dante is guided by Virgil but in Paradise he is led by his beloved Beatrice. These are powerful, exquisite works and the suffering and torment depicted in the first two parts might serve as a reminder to mend our own ways where necessary.

courtauld.ac.uk

 

 

Botticelli Reimagined, V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 until 3rd July 2016

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This is certainly a major show covering a period of some five hundred years and includes some fifty works by Sandro Botticelli himself. Rather strangely in my opinion the exhibition starts in a rather glitzy Global, Modern, Contemporary Section which features a whole variety of works, including scenes from Dr No and the The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which are inspired by Botticelli’s painting the Birth of Venus.

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Botticelli was rather neglected in the three hundred years after his death but was re-discovered in the 19th century by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite group, some of whom acquired his works, and thus the second section features works by Burne-Jones, Rossetti and William Morris which reflect this interest as well as paintings by Degas and Gustave Moreau.

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The third and final section Botticelli in his Own Time takes us to the master himself. There are some fine works, including five Divine Comedy drawings, to be enjoyed. Among the paintings is The Mystic Nativity, his only signed and dated painting and Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli (c. 1470-5) which was once owned by Rossetti. I do wonder whether the stark white walls of this section were the right foil for these works and whether the layout is a bit cramped but having said that this is a memorable exhibition for the right reasons. Botticelli certainly still reigns!

vam.ac.uk

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