Thursday, April 20, 2017
Superb Botticelli show at MFA traces the master’s arc
April 20, 2017
Sandro Botticelli is remembered — cherished! — for “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera,” paintings that celebrate love, beauty, and the flowering of spring. But in the last years of his life, his art turned tight and dour.
“Botticelli and the Search for the Divine,” a stirring exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, traces the evolution of the early Renaissance master’s career. Its path is tender and rapturous, then dark, even angry, yet always visually lucid, always affecting.
The exhibition contextualizes Botticelli’s development amid the creative hothouse of 15th-century Florence, and on through an immense societal upheaval in the 1490s. That’s when the great patrons of the arts, the Medici family, fell from power and the fire-and-brimstone preacher and canny political strategist Fra Girolamo Savonarola stepped into the void.
The show, a terrific joint undertaking by the MFA and the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, is the largest Botticelli show yet in the United States, featuring 15 works by the master and several by those in his circle. Many have never been seen before this side of the Atlantic.