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The Career of Botticelli

When looking at a work such as Sandro Botticelli's Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John at the Cleveland Museum of Art a modern viewer might be moved by its emotional qualities, charmed by the atmosphere, delighted by the drawing, or even feel reverent before its religious message. More careful attention can produce an appreciation for the alternation of colors--yellow, blue, flesh tones, russet red--in graceful strips that hold the composition together. Or such attention might concentrate on the delicate transparency of the Virgin's veil, facial similarities among the three figures, or the apparent failure of foreshortening in the Virgin's right arm. More knowledgeable viewers may even compare the Virgin's dreamy physiognomy with more famous versions of Botticellian beauty. But, because it is hanging in an American museum among other, varied, examples of the art of the Italian Renaissance, the painting's particular relationships to Botticelli's career and to its original audience are obscured. Even when visiting museums with a number of works by Botticelli, or other individual masters, "we tend not to make any distinctions in our minds about what kinds of work these are, and about where they were originally sited: gallery walls blur such distinctions" (Thomas 15). Placing a work such as the Cleveland Madonna in a broader context is difficult. The museum visitor cannot do so easily because information such as the identity of the original owner, the precise date of the painting, and even the extent of Botticelli's work on the picture are not known. In addition, the peculiarities of Botticelli's career and the subsequent history of his reputation have created an image of the artist that may also interfere with some viewers' ability to assess the work in its own right.

In order to assemble a context for viewing the Cleveland Madonna, therefore, it is necessary to know the basic facts of Botticelli's career, the source ...

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The Career of Botticelli. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:12, July 01, 2022, from