I also pointed out in my previous post that Rembrandt’s 1439 engraving titled The Death of the Virgin is a work that pays homage to Hugo Van der Goes and includes many figures who feature in Hugo’s paintings.
A famous quote associated with Thomas à Kempis is: “I have sought everywhere for peace, but I have found it not, save in nooks and in books.” – often adapted to a shorter version: “In a little corner with a little book”. This quotation is a key to locating his place and confirming his identity in Hugo’s painting.
Rembrandt linked to this quote in his engraving, but there is nothing little about his version. The ‘little book’ becomes the ‘big book’ placed at the corner of the table in front of the prominent seated figure in the foreground.
But who is this mysterious figure with his back to the viewer? Could there be a connection to the figure opposite, peering across the room through the ‘nook’ in the curtain?
‘Face to Face with Death’ is the title of a new exhibition that features Hugo Van der Goes’ famous painting, The Death of the Virgin.
Over the past four years the painting has been extensively restored and is now the central focus of an exhibition opening today in Saint John’s Hospital in Brugge, Belgium, until February 5, 2023.
The Death of the Virgin is one of the most important works in Musea Brugge’s world famous collection of Flemish primitive art. The Museum’s website explains:
“By exploring six different themes, this exhibition will take a deeper look at ‘The Death of the Virgin’. Each theme will be developed with reference to other great masterpieces, some of which belong to the Musea Brugge collection, while others have been brought to Bruges from all over Europe. These works include paintings by Hans Memling, Jan Provoost and Albrecht Bouts, but sculptures, manuscripts and pieces of music will also be used to bring visitors face to face with death in its different forms. In total, more than seventy works of art will be displayed.”
It would be interesting to know if Rembrandt’s famous etching produced in 1639 and with the same title, The Death of the Virgin, is on display at the exhibition. The etching (shown below) is a tribute to Van der Goes and features several characters from many of his paintings. It could be said that the person dying in bed is not the Virgin Mary but Hugo Van der Goes!
I posted some details on Hugo’s painting some time ago, and also on Rembrandt’s etching at these links:
I see that Sandro Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi is currently on show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It forms part of an exhibition titled: Botticelli and Renaissance Florence: Masterworks from the Uffizi. The exhibition runs from October 16, 2022 to January 8, 2023.
Details about the exhibition can be found at this link, but it won’t give you the inside story about the painting and the disguised narrative embedded by Botticelli. For this information go here.
An LS Lowry painting described as an “iconic masterpiece” has been sold at auction for a record-breaking £7.8 million. Going To The Match depicts a bustling throng of football fans gathered at the former home of Bolton Wanderers.
In 1475 Pope Sixtus IV nominated Francesco Salviati Riario as Archbishop of Pisa, the position left vacant following the death of Filippo de’ Medici in October 1474. The appointment did not meet with the approval of the Medici family in Florence who had earlier blocked Salviati’s attempt to become Archbishop of Florence in 1474.
The outcome was that Salviati, a known antagonist of the Medici, never occupied his diocesan chair in Pisa but remained in Rome even though he was the Church’s official choice as archbishop.
Some years later Salviati saw his opportunity for taking revenge against the Medici when he conspired with others to assassinate both Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother Giuliano, in a plot that became known as the Pazzi Conspiracy.
With the support of Pope Sixtus IV, who was sympathetic to replacing the control the Medici held over Florence, Salviati, was joined by Girolamo Riario and Francesco de’ Pazzi in planning the assassination of the two brothers.
Despite the best laid plans, the coup failed, even though Giuliano was murdered in the process. The attackers failed to see off Lorenzo and the alarm was raised, resulting in the plotters and their accomplices being captured and executed with haste and without trial or any mercy shown.
According to historian Harold Acton,“Francesco de’ Pazzi was pulled bleeding and naked from his hiding place and hanged from a window of the city palace. The Archbishop of Pisa was hanged beside him and as he fell, he bit at the dead body of Francesco; the halter tightening round his throat, he held onto the corpse with his teeth.”
Girolamo Riario, as a nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, was not at the scene on the day of slaughter, even though he was one of the main instigators of the plot. In January 1473 he had married Caterina Sforza the illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, duke of Milan. She was ten years old at the time. Ten years after the Pazzi Conspiracy, Girolamo himself was assassinated on April 14, 1488, by members of the Orsini family.
Girolamo Riario, Francesco de’ Pazzi, and Archbishop Francesco Salviati are all referenced in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, as is Bernardo Bandini Baroncelli who struck the first blow against Giuliano de’ Medici.
The leaning figure of Ecclesia (Venus) is not only a pointer to the leaning Tower of Pisa and so to Archbishop Salviati, but also to the nepotism practiced by Pope Sixtus IV whose nominations and appointments leaned to those of his own friends and family.
My next post will deal with uncovering the iconography that refers to the identities of the Pazzi conspirators Botticelli disguised in the Birth of Venus.
A Sandro Botticelli painting of the Virgin Mary that was once owned by the late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen will be auctioned Christie’s this November. The house expects that it will fetch more than $40 million, making it one of the most expensive works from Allen’s estate to head to sale. More details at this link.
This less than joyous gentleman climbing a staircase to enter the home of Cornelis van der Geest is generally assumed to be Willem van Haecht, the artist and curator who painted gallery or ‘cabinet’ scenes of the Antwerp spice merchant’s art collection.
But it’s not Willem.
He is an English rector by the name of Thomas Salter who in 1579 translated and plagiarised a treatise by the Venetian writer and historian Giovanni Michele Bruto (1517–1592). Bruto’s treatise was a conduct book for young ladies and titled, La Institutione di una Fanciulla Nata Nobilmente. It was printed in 1555 in two languages, Tuscan and French, by the Antwerp bookbinder Christophe Plantin. Salter’s version was titled, A Mirrhor mete for all Mothers, Matrones, and Maidens, intituled the Mirrhor of Modestie.
The National Portrait Gallery in London houses a mid 17th century engraving by Thomas Cross (NPG D21353) identified as “A member of the Salter family, possibly Thomas Salter”.
Thomas Salter was a rector of St Mellion, Cornwall, who died in 1625, three years before Willem van Haecht completed the painting in 1628 in which Salter is featured, known as The Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest.
Thomas Cross (the Elder) was active between 1632 and 1685. He produced several book title pages in a ‘cabinet’ or gallery format. His engraving of Thomas Salter was inspired by Van Haecht’s portrayal of the rector in the Van der Geest ‘cabinet’ painting and having knowledge of the back story and clues embedded by the Flemish painter.
More about decoding the iconography that identifies Thomas Salter in a future post.
“The Uffizi Gallery in Florence has taken legal action against fashion label Jean Paul Gaultier for selling several clothing items decorated with Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, one of the most prized works in its collection.”
In a previous post I pointed out that Botticelli adapted the Four Cardinal Virtues sculpted on the early 14th century pulpit in Pisa Cathedral and featured them in his Birth of Venus painting.
I explained how the central figure of Venus in Botticelli’s painting represented Ecclesia (the Church) and also both the virtues of Justice and Prudence. The figure about to cover up the naked Venus, sometimes referred to as a goddess of the seasons, represents the two other Cardinal Virtues, Fortitude and Temperance.
My previous post also demonstrated how Botticelli adapted a drawing by Villard de Honnecourt for the woman’s composition. She is shaped to represent a buttress to support the tilting Venus, or Ecclesia in a state of nakedness representing the perceived failings and faults of the Church of the time.
One of Fortitude’s symbols is a lion, as seen in Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit sculpture. In Botticelli’s painting a lion’s head is formed by the shape of the red cloak, it’s mane being the long hair of the woman. The shape is also meant to mirror the head of the horse as in Villard’s drawing, except there is a small difference. The right fetlock of Villard’s horse appears to be growing out of the animal’s forehead or forelock.
This is matched by Botticelli with a similar feature grasped by the woman’s right hand. In this instance it represents a horn attached to the head of the horse and so becomes a unicorn. Both lion and unicorn are often featured as support symbols in heraldic coats of arms.
Another symbol associated with Fortitude is a yoke. This can be recognised as the red cloak’s collar or the mouth of the lion-cum-unicorn whose head is harnessed by the woman’s arms. The harness or bridle, a form of restraint, is also a symbol associated with Temperance.
Fish is another symbol attributed to Temperance; so are water and wine jugs. The lower half of the red cloak represents a fish, it’s tail held in the grip of the woman’s left hand. Protruding from the side of the head is the shape of another fish head formed by the headland.
The jug feature is shaped as a wine sack formed by the section of the red cloak below the woman’s right arm, it’s open spout held in her right hand. A jug handle shaped from the cloak’s collar.
The Pisa connection to the Birth of Venus painting extends beyond the Four Cardinal Virtues that form part of the Cathedral’s pulpit, and the short time Botticelli spent working in the city. More on this in a future post.