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Masterworks | Portland: Botticelli

Dec 21, 2022 - May 7, 2023
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR
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The Portland Art Museum is pleased to present Sandro Botticelli’s masterwork Madonna of the Magnificat, a tondo (round painting) of the Madonna and Child with angels. This rarely seen work is a variant of the artist’s celebrated painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, considered one of the finest Madonna and Child paintings of the Renaissance and a high point of Botticelli’s career.

Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) was a leading artist of the Renaissance, a moment of tremendous creativity when artists and thinkers drew inspiration from the classical past and adopted a more humanistic approach. First apprenticed to a goldsmith, Botticelli later joined the workshop (bottega) of painter Filippo Lippi (ca. 1406–1469), who was praised by his contemporaries for his elegant compositions and skillful deployment of color. Over many years, Botticelli learned the methods of panel painting and fresco and absorbed Lippi’s refined style and proportions, attentiveness to fabrics, and one-point perspective. By 1470, Botticelli had his own independent practice and was gaining recognition for his work. He combined Lippi’s linear elegance with a more vigorous, sculptural form; a greater naturalism graces his art, always tempered by a search for ideal beauty.

Botticelli’s depiction of the Madonna and Child with angels is a masterpiece of both composition and symbolism. Painted in the tondo (round) format, Madonna of the Magnificat (ca. 1483) exhibits a series of harmonious curvilinear forms. The Madonna gracefully bends forward over Christ, embracing him with her arms and torso, while at the left, a standing angel dressed in rich carmine leans lovingly over two kneeling angels, enclosing them with his right arm. The dome of heaven, flecked with gold stars, ensconces the holy scene in a perfect circle. The rose motif of the Madonna’s throne, the fruit in her left hand, and the window behind her further the symphony of round shapes. 

Madonna of the Magnificat was formerly in the collection of the late Paul Allen, who acquired it in 1999. Other masterpieces from Allen’s collection were featured in Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, which debuted at the Portland Art Museum in October 2015. This painting appears at the Museum on special loan from a private collector, presenting an extraordinary opportunity for the public to experience this superb artwork by an icon of the Italian Renaissance.

Organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Mary Weaver Chapin, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings. This is the seventh installment of the Portland Art Museum’s Masterworks | Portland series, which focuses on displaying individual works of outstanding quality by great artists. This presentation is made possible by the William G. Gilmore Foundation, Ann Flowerree, the Laura and Roger Meier Family, The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, and Exhibition Series Sponsors.