Art in Focus – April 2022
Detail from The lamentation over the dead Christ with saints,
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, also known as Sandro Botticelli
(a nickname meaning ‘little barrel’), 1499-1500
Is there a better depiction of devotion and love, of the need to cherish and the pain of loss?
This is Mary Magdalene cradling the feet of Jesus. It is a detail from Botticelli’s much larger painting of Jesus being taken down from the cross by his closest family and friends. His mother, also Mary, is depicted sitting with the dead Christ across her lap, forming a traditional pieta – ‘pity’ in Italian. Two other female disciples gather round her, John cradles her head and Joseph of Arimathea stands above the group holding the crown of thorns and three nails.
Throughout his early career Botticelli was one of the most powerful painters of the Italian Renaissance, making works for the infamous Medici family. But in later life he came under the influence of the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola and developed a more personal style. Botticelli’s lamentation may represent this change in his approach to religious subjects. And this portrait of Mary Magdalene could well be his own moving response to Christ in a renewal of his personal faith.
Art in focus is curated by Meryl Doney
This article was published in the April 2022 edition of Reform