Sandro Botticelli painted the iconic Madonna of the Magnificat in 1481. Today it is housed in the Uffizi, Florence. Many art historians believe this to be Botticelli's greatest painting, and the most famous representation on canvas of the Virgin.
Not much is known regarding the history of the Madonna of the Magnificat, but it is believed that it was painted to be hung in a monetary within Florence. Today several copies exist, one can be found in the Louvre, and another in New York at the Pierpont Morgan Library.
This large spherical canvas features life sized portraits, and is epic on a grand scale. We observe the Virgin, who is being crowned by wingless angels who hover behind her. The crown is comprised of tiny stars.
She appears to be writing the Magnificat, and on one of the pages we can clearly see the Benedictus. Behind the figures is a large window, and through this we observe the vast green landscape. On the Virgin's lap we see the Christ Child, gazing upwards, who is swaddled in cloth, with a third Angel kneeling reverently before them.
It is this Angel that holds the Magnificat out towards the Virgin to write in. We observe that in one hand she holds a quill, while in the other she handles a pomegranate. There is great symbolism placed upon the use of this pomegranate, and that is to convey the sense of passion.
Our attention is of course focussed upon the Virgin and Chid, but the background is also of huge importance. It resembles that of the background within the Madonna del Libra, with its simplicity and green rolling hills.
What the landscape manages to reflect is the numerous influences upon Botticelli by native artists from the Netherlands, whom greatly influenced his style of painting. They included artists such as Hubert van der Goes and Rogier van der Weyden. This inspiration and influence not only transferred to the painting of the background, but also to the painting of the figures in a naturalist and classic manner.
What we also observe when admiring this painting is the lavish use of gold. It can be seen everywhere, and this is one of the reasons why the Madonna of the Magnificat was one of Botticelli's most expensive creations. We observe gold in the robes that have been painted.
We see gold in the angelic rays that are descending from heaven. Where gold has been used to maximum effect is in the star crown that is placed majestically onto the Virgin's head. Botticelli has also cleverly used gold paint to highlight the hair strands for all of the Angels and the Virgin. Gold paint was very rarely used during this period, so its lavish use clearly shows the importance that Botticelli placed upon this creative work.
Hi, I'm Tom!
I'm the writer and founder of TheHistoryOfArt.org. I have studied different art movements for over 15 years, and am also an amateur artist myself! Read my bio here.