18 years of absence. Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) is once again the subject of an exhibition in France, after the last one in the Senate in 2003. Canvases by the illustrious Italian painter return to illuminate the rooms of the Institut de France, not far from the Luxembourg gardens. Postponed because of the Covid19 pandemic, the “Botticelli, artist designer” exhibition brings together around forty prestigious works by the Florentine painter and his accomplices from the second half of the 15th century.
For the curators, art historian Ana Debenedetti and curator Pierre Curie, “the career of Botticelli, who became one of the greatest artists in Florence, testifies to the influence and the profound changes which transformed the city under the Medici.” The organizers have drawn exceptional works from museums around the world to symbolize the painter’s artistic production: the Louvre, the National Gallery in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Vatican museums and libraries, the Uffizi or again the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. “The exhibition will present Botticelli in his role of creator, but also of entrepreneur and trainer. It will show the importance of this workshop practice, a laboratory teeming with ideas and a place of training, typical of the Italian Renaissance”, explain the commissioners.
In the first room, “from the Filippo Lippi workshop to independence”, Botticelli acquires the technique of easel painting but also that of the fresco from his master. He discovered the Quattrocento movement (marking the first renaissance initiated in Florence) and painted in particular “The Virgin and Child”.
In the second, the commissioners introduce us to the historian painter who decorated many patrician homes: his art shaped the furniture or the paneling covering the walls. Further on, in the “polyvalent workshop”, they exhibit tapestries and embroidery. Botticelli notably declines the character of Minerva, goddess of war, wisdom and the arts. The commissioners thus make the painter a “true genius of reuse, excels there thanks to an unceasingly renewed inventiveness”.
In the fourth room, the exhibition shows part of the portrait gallery that the painter created for the Medici, a rich banking family omnipresent in Florence at the end of the 15th century. The most famous painting in this series of commissions represents Julien de Médicis, assassinated in 1478. In the following one we will be able to admire great mythological scenes, embodied by “The Birth of Venus”, which reveals more than it hides. This emblematic canvas is the synthesis between the ancient myth and the poetic philosophy of the Florentine humanists.
The final room, “from the tondo to the altarpiece”, displays Botticelli’s religious painting. “The altarpiece plays a fundamental role in the economy of Botticelli’s studio. Placed in the public space, above the altar of a church or a chapel, it is one of the most prestigious commissions. that an artist can receive. By its visibility, it ensures the diffusion of the style and the inventions of the painter, while constituting a perfect demonstration likely to arouse the enthusiasm of new customers “, say the commissioners. “The Coronation of the Virgin” remains the most striking element.
The exhibition “Botticelli, designer artist” takes place from September 10, 2021 to January 24, 2022 at the Jacquemart-André Museum (Institut de France, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 8th).
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