Botticelli & Renaissance at the Mpls Institute of Art, Mpls, MN USA

Botticelli & Renaissance Florence come to Minneapolis

I Love Italy!

As anyone who has followed my travel and art blogs may have concluded – I LOVE ITALY! One of the major reasons is its great art museums and its legacy of fabulous artists.

I Love Florence!

Florence is home to one of my all time favorite art museums: the Uffizi. It houses the world’s most celebrated masterpieces of Renaissance Florence; the Botticelli Room is a highlight.

Italy comes to MN: Unprecedented Art Exhibit

October 2022 thru 08 January 2023

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence Italy partnered with the Mia (Minneapolis Institute of Art) in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA for an unprecedented exhibition which I attended twice this fall (2022).

This exhibition is also unprecedented in that Minneapolis is the ONLY venue where the exhibition will be shown! Wow!

I credit the Mia for being intentional in developing relationships such as this with museums around the world. The result makes exhibitions like this possible.

The exhibition has drawn visitors from around the world who travel to the Mia and Minneapolis. I overheard a fellow attendee share that he had traveled from New York City solely for this show!

Cher at Mia exhibit entry. P.C. Amy B. 10/29/22

Florence: Cradle of the Renaissance

The Renaissance – “new birth” – was a time of reawakening in Europe (late 1400s/early 1500s). Artists and intellectuals studied artifacts excavated from ancient ruins. They rediscovered ancient texts. They radically transformed the art and culture of their time – and beyond.

Florence was at the center of these transformations It was epitomized by the beauty and innovations produced by its native son, Sandro Botticelli. He, with his fellow artists, took up pagan subjects from mythology and reinterpreted them. They took the idealized human forms of classical sculpture and adapted them to Christian themes and values. These themes make up this exhibition.

Exhibition early map of Venice. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22

The Renaissance also saw a rise in humanism. This placed the individual at the center of the new worldview. Interest in the new genre of portraiture and altered approaches to religious art was fostered.

Florence was stable and prosperous. Artists enjoyed remarkable patronage across all sectors of society. This patronage included the city’s ruling families like the Medici, powerful trade guilds, religious and civic institutions and members of the entrepreneurial merchant class. In this Mia exhibit, art works made for Florentine patrons are on display along side classical sculpture which provided inspiration.

The Uffizi & The Medici

The artistic achievements of the Italian Renaissance – this rebirth – have enthralled audiences for centuries.

The very fiber of the history of the city is woven into the Uffizi’s 3 sites. These include the main museum plus the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens on the hill overlooking the city. These are the former residences and grounds of the Medici grand dukes.

The core of the Uffizi’s vast holdings is art collected by this powerful Medici family – including many works in this exhibition.

Pitti Palace painting. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22

Ancient Art meets Renaissance

Art: Ancient meets Renaissance

Classic ancient Roman sculptures served as inspiration for the Renaissance in Florence. Paintings and drawings by Sandro Botticelli and his Renaissance circle are displayed alongside these Roman sculptures – for the first time ever! .

The works of art on loan from the Uffizi are joined by art treasures from the Mia’s impressive collection.

Exhibition layout. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22

“Adoration of the Magi” by Botticelli

I was excited that the major painting showcased was “Adoration of the Magi”! It was the artwork by Botticelli that I had all my art history students memorize!

The inclusion of his self-portrait and the Medici and local “models” in the scene. is a great topic for discussion.

(Cher w/painting. P.C. Amy B. 10/29/22)

Botticelli: Renaissance Artist

Who is Botticelli?

Sandro Botticelli was born Alessandro Filipepei; (1445-1510) in Florence, Italy.

At age 14, Botticelli began his apprenticeship with Filippo Lippi, whose works are included in this Mia exhibit. By his mid 20s, he opened his own studio – and emerged as one of the leading talents of his generation.

He spent his entire career in Florence except for a brief stint in Rome, where he painted wall frescoes on the Sistine Chapel (1481-82). These can be seen today on the walls just under Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Ceiling.

In his day, Botticelli was renowned for his incomparable treatment of sacred subjects and his many altarpieces and devotional paintings.

Botticelli Self-Portrait

Botticelli himself introduces us to the scene in the “Adoration of the Magi.” Gazing at us from the far right of the painting, wearing the golden robe, he provides us with his only known self-portrait – another reason for the significance of this painting.

Botticelli, close up. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22
Botticelli’s Legacy

In later years, Botticelli’s style became more somber, reflecting the spirit of the age. The rise of Friar Savonarola, a zealot reformer Botticelli seems to have supported, forced the Medici’s into exile from Florence in 1494. The monk ordered the burning of objects the church authorities considered sinful – including some of Botticelli’s art.

Sadly, amidst this pursuit of religious reform, many of Botticelli’s paintings were destroyed in the historical Bonfire of the Vanities (1497). (But that’s another story for another time!)

Today, Botticelli’s reputation is heavily based on his mythological paintings. Top three are at the Uffizi and were made for the Medici family (1480s): the Primavera, Birth of Venus, and Pallas and the Centaur. This last one is included in this exhibit.

During the final decade of his life, Botticelli and his workshop remained active until his death at 65 (1510).

The Renaissance was evolving. Art in Florence was transforming with a new generation of artists emerging: Leonardo , Michelangelo, and Raphael!

Adoration of the Magi: the Painting

The Painting

Botticelli’s “Adoration of the Magi” (1470-75) is the Star of the Show! While not as famous as his “Birth of Venus,” it is representational of his work. It also shows how religious subjects were being freshly represented at this time. We see a stark move away from the rigid Medieval art that preceded it.

Mia exhibit. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22
Exhibit Focal Point

The exhibition radiates from the central focal point of the painting at the end of the hall. It provides the atmosphere of Italian Renaissance architecture.

Mia Exhibit. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22
The Magi

“Adoration of the Magi” was originally commissioned for the private altar in Florence’s famed church of Santa Maria Novella.

The theme is the Epiphany – or Adoration of the Magi. As recorded in the biblical Gospel in Matthew 2, kings (magi) traveled from the East with gifts for the newborn Christ Child in Bethlehem.

Holy Family

In the painting, the Holy Family sits amidst rubble, slightly above the onlooking worshipers.

Holding the patriarchal Medici place of honor before the Christ Child with Mary and Joseph is Lorenzo the Magnificent, wearing a robe of gold on black.

Painting close up. P.C. Cher B 10/29/22

The Magi, The Medici &The Worshipers

Worshipers v. Holy Family

The focus of this painting is less on the Holy Family – and more on the identity of the audience of worshipers. The contemporary Florentine viewer would have recognized the faces of several local residents including key members of the Medici family, living and deceased. It also includes a portrait of the patron who commissioned the painting for an altarpiece.

Cher w/painting. P.C. Amy B. 10/29/22
The Magi & the Medici

The powerful Medici cultivated the practice of mixing contemporary people with biblical figures in art and life – seen in this scene. Medici took the regal role of the Magi in Florence’s elaborate parades during the January 6th Festival of Epiphany.

Botticelli’s altarpiece portrayed events like this which merged civic life with religious devotion, politics and pageantry.

(Exhibit Painting. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)

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I knew that the artist and the Medici were portrayed, but the exact identify of the Medici had never been identified to me before. I was excited that the placard at the exhibit listed the historical identification of individuals in the painting!

Ancient Art inspires Renaissance Florence

Ancient Centaurs Inspire Renaissance

Centaur (Ancient)

Part man, part horse, a Centaur is both human and beast, wild and wise. The Centaur has been interpreted through the ages as an ambiguous figure and portrayed by artists through the ages.

Centaur (Ancient)

This Italian marble sculpture is Ancient Roman.

(c. 150 AD, marble, Ufizzi. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)
“Pallas and the Centaur” (Renaissance) by Botticelli

After the “Adoration of the Magi” the painting “Pallas and the Centaur” is key to the exhibit. It is one of the first paintings seen upon entry.

The ancient centaur can be compared to this one in Botticelli’s depiction of a young maiden taming a centaur. The goddess of wisdom and war, she is traditionally identified as Pallas/Athena/Minerva. The artist inserts contemporary references to his own times in this painting, creating one meant to be read on different levels.

“Pallas and the Centaur” (Renaissance) by Botticelli
(c. 1482, tempera and oil, Ufizzi. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)

Ancient Ideal Male Torso inspires Renaissance

The Ideal Male Torso

To demonstrate how the ancient ideal male torso inspired Renaissance artists, we see Florentine Italian paintings displayed next to an ancient marble male torso.

(Mia Exhibition. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)
Male Torso (Ancient)

This ancient, larger-than-life, Roman Male Torso is an exquisite example of the kind of idealized male nude sculptures from antiquity admired by Renaissance artists.

(200 BC – AD 200, Roman copy of Greek sculpture c. 450 BC. Minneapolis Institute of Art. P.C. Cher B 10/29/22)
“The Flagellation” (Renaissance) by Botticelli’s Workshop

We see an example of the influence of classical sculptures (i.e. Male Torso) displayed in this painting. Depicting the flagellation (beating, flogging) of Christ prior to His crucifixion, the influence is displayed in Christ’s divine body.

“The Flagellation” (Renaissance)
(c. 1505-20, tempera and oil, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B 10/29/22)

Ancient Female Body inspires Renaissance

“Crouching Aphrodite” (Ancient)

This ancient Roman Italian marble of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, inspired Renaissance artists. The natural pose reveals the physical beauty of the female form. It implies modesty, a virtue celebrated in the 1400s.

“Crouching Aphrodite” (Ancient)
(c. 2nd century AD, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)
“Venus” (Renaissance) by di Credi

The emotions of the ancient marble, “Crouching Aphrodite” are echoed in the Renaissance rendition of “Venus,” by Lorenzo di Credi. It was inspired by a similar painting of Venus by Botticelli. It is similar to the female figure in Botticelli’s famous “Birth of Venus.”

Di Credi is most famous for having worked along side of the young Leonardo da Vinci in the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio. He is best known for his paintings of religious subjects.

“Venus” (Renaissance) by di Credi
(c. 1490, Ufizzi. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)

Ancient Cupids inspire Renaissance

Ancient Cupids inspire Renaissance depiction of Infant Jesus Christ

The idealized ancient Roman model of cupid was adapted by Renaissance artists for depictions of the infant Jesus Christ. This pose was also applied to foreshadow Christ’s death.

Ancient “Sleeping Cupid”

This ancient Roman marble of “Sleeping Cupid,” the god of Love, is shown in a peaceful state of slumber.

(2nd century AD, Uffizi, P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)
“Madonna & Child in Glory with Angels” by Botticelli

This painting is Botticelli’s earliest work in this exhibition. Comparisons of the ancient Cupid can be seen in this chubby Christ child being held by his Mother, Mary. A celestial vision of Mary, portrayed as queen of heaven, is seated on a throne of cloud-like angels.

(c. 1467-69, tempera on panel, Uffizi, P.C. Cher B 10/29/22)
“Adoration of the Child with Angels” (“Madonna of the Roses”) by Botticelli

Adoration of the Child with Angels” was painted by Botticelli in a tondo (rounded) format, common during the Renaissance.

“Adoration of the Child with Angels” (“Madonna of the Roses”) by Botticelli

(c. 1490-1500, tempera and oil, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B 10/29/22)

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Faces & People in Renaissance Florence

Florentine Faces & People

Portraiture emerged in 1400s Florence as an independent genre. The new, 3/4 view, gained popularity. It allowed for more lifelike depictions instead of the typical profile portraits. The Mia exhibit includes many excellent examples. Here are my favorites!

Signorelli

In Head of an Elderly Man,we can see Luca Signorelli’s unique style of foreshortening. This technique depicts an object or human body in a picture producing the illusion of extension into space.

“Head of an Elderly Man” by Signorelli
(c. 1515-20, black chalk and charcoal on coarse cream-colored paper, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)
Ghirlandaio

Domenico Ghirlandaio was a celebrated fresco painter and portraitist of Florentine high society.

Ghirlandaio had a major influence on Italian Renaissance artists like Botticelli and Michelangelo.

Fun Fact

Lorenzo de’ Medici requested Ghirlandaio’s two best pupils for the inclusion in the Medici Academy. The young Michelangelo was selected! This set in motion the artistic training and legacy of one of the greatest artists of all time!

“Portrait of an Old Man” by Ghirlandaio

This portrait by Ghirlandaio had an interesting twist! A format and technique unique to Florence during this time was a frescoed portrait, applied to a roof tile such as this!

Frescoes are painted into freshly spread, wet plaster, ensuring more permanency. This permanency can be seen in the clarity of this exhibition artwork.

(c. 1485-90, fresco on tile, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B 10/29/22)
“Portrait of a Young Man” by Botticelli

Botticelli is considered one of the great masters of portraiture in Renaissance Florence.

This “Portrait of a Young Man” may be his earliest surviving portrait.

In this portrait, I was fascinated by the cap! I had not seen this style before! It is a dark violet, pleated cap – with a long strip of cloth that trails from the cap and worn over the shoulders!

“Portrait of a Young Man” by Botticelli
(1470, tempera and oil, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B 10/29/22)
“Portrait of a Young Man” by Il Perugino

Perugino, a contemporary of Botticelli, was one of the leading painters in Florence in the 1480s.

In this portrait, he portrayed a teenage boy with beauty and serenity in a way comparable to his paintings of young saints and angels.

Fun Fact

Perugino helped pave the way for the art of the High Renaissance with his strong formative influence on the young artist, Raphael.

“Portrait of a Young Man” by Il Perugino

(c. 1495-97, oil on panel, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B 10/29/22)

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Botticelli honors St. Augustine

“St. Augustine in His Study” by Botticelli

In one of his most detailed painting in the exhibit, Botticelli depicts St. Augustine in an idealized Renaissance study. The celebrated Christian theologian is engrossed in work in a monastic cell.

The ceiling and walls of this compact scene are filled with symbolism. Extensive, detailed representations of the Virgin and Child, emperors, and Augustine’s own writings are included.

Intended for private devotion, this exquisite, ornately framed, small painting could be easily transported. It was designed to be taken on trips for the ritual of prayer. Prayer for protection and salvation of the soul was fundamental to life at the time.

(c. 1494, tempera and oil, Uffizi. P.C. Cher B. 10/29/22)

We, in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, are blessed with great cultural opportunities including the extensive, rich collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis (Mia).

I’ve written several posts on the Mia collection and exhibits: Highlights of the museumArt in IceArt in Bloom 2022New York City pandemic shut downJapanese TextilesChristmas Nativity – and now this one on Botticelli and Florentine Renaissance. I predict more to come in the future! It is a great, world-class art museum!

Visit

Visit Mia
  • Admission to Mia main museum is always FREE!
  • Details and Tickets for special exhibits: Go to artsmia.org. Admission Fee is charged for special exhibits. Discounts are available with Mia membership.
  • Parking: Ample parking options available. Pay in ramps and lots (credit card needed). Free on-street parking available in the residential neighborhood; watch for time limits on street signs.
  • Dining & Drinks: Sandwiches, salads, baked goods, cold drinks, and coffee are available at Agre-Culture coffee shop on site. Healthy, tasty options.

Travel Tip

Travel Tip: Visiting Florence & Uffizi. Know what you want to see when you book a tour of any site. My visits to Florence are a good example. The first time I visited Florence was with a tour group. We hit the highlights, but the Uffizi was not one of them. Required to stick with the tour group, it pained me greatly to pass by the outside of the Uffizi and not be able to go inside. However, it did encourage me to arrange another visit to Florence and put a Uffizi visit at the top of my To Do List! NOTE: Admission to the Uffizi is included in the Firenze City Pass, which I recommend!

Sources

  • All Photos taken by Cher B or Amy B, 29 October 2022
  • “Botticelli & Renaissance Florence” special exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, 29 October 2022.
  • Personal travel tours led by Cher B to the Uffizi and Florence, as well as much of Italy with YEAH Educational Tours. May 2015.
  • University Art History courses taught by Professor Cher B for Concordia University, St. Paul, MN and North Central University, Mpls. MN

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