Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection, The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2, until 15thMay 2016
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).
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.
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.
Botticelli Reimagined, V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 until 3rd July 2016
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.
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.
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!