Botticelli masterworks on display at the Muscarelle.
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Sandro Botticelli, "Madonna del Libro," tempera on panel.
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Botticelli, "Sant Agostino," fresco.
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Botticelli and workshop, "Venere" (Venus), oil on canvas.
After hosting three major exhibitions of Italian masters—Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci—the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary is featuring another stunning collection on loan from Italy. From Feb. 11 through April 6, sixteen paintings by Botticelli will be on display in their galleries. For some pieces, this will be their first time on U.S. soil.
Botticelli’s Renaissance paintings were religious masterpieces that stand as exemplars of the period. “Almost everybody knows the great ‘Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli by sight,” says Aaron De Groft, director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art, “but you’ll see her again, a stark figure with a dark background standing alone in our gallery. And we’re very proud of that.”
Included in the exhibition will be artworks by other noted Italians, such as paintings by Botticelli’s teacher, Filippo Lippi; the death mask of Lorenzo the Magnificent; and a bronze statuette of Hercules by Antonio Pollaiuolo. But the show’s focus is Botticelli’s career, from the golden age of Medici patronage to the drastic change in values and art appreciation—when luxurious splendor gave way to stark austerity—that occurred during his lifetime. Scores of Botticelli paintings that were lauded early in his career were condemned later on, many of them burned during the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities.
“You can now see [the Renaissance] visually evolve in our galleries through this exhibition,” says De Groft, “this line of the development in Florence beginning with the great Medici until their downfall. The cultural attaché and some other folks in the Superintenza in Italy have said it’s the largest and most important Botticelli show ever. It’s just groundbreaking in terms of the visual depiction of how Botticelli’s life and art evolved.”
In addition to its regular hours, the museum will provide walking tours on Saturday and Sunday and remain open until 9 p.m. Wednesdays. Muscarelle.org
This article originally appeared in our Feb. 2017 issue.