Lamentation Over the Dead Christ with Saints

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Botticelli, Lamentation Over the Dead Christ with Saints, 1495
By ETHAN DOSKEY

In Botticelli's final years of painting, his style underwent complete atrophy. Under the unmitigated influence of the quasi-preacher, Savonarola, Botticelli questioned the religious implications of his art. In direct contrast to the Medici Renaissance ideals, Savonarola condemned all "sinful" acts of participating in the sciences and arts. This, in effect, pulls Botticelli apart (you can see a direct correlation in his paintings through the years) and drives him to burn his paintings in the "bonfire of the vanities" and retire.

Before his spiritual crisis, Botticelli was regarded as a master of his trade by those who recorded their opinions. "Sandro Botticelli, an excellent painter both on panel and on the wall. As Michael Baxandall says, "His things have a virile air and are done with the best method and complete proportion" (Baxandall 26). From the vague words of an agent of the Duke of Milan in 1490, he praises the energetic vibe of Botticelli's painting, and the "method" and the "complete proportion" of his works. Though this may not mean much to the twenty-first century reader, art critics in 1400s Florence did not have any concrete grounds for what constituted a "good" and "bad" painting.  Instead, they were faced with the difficult task of conveying the desirable attributes of art according to the community of the time. By this time Botticelli had created such magnum operas (for I think that narrowing it down to one would be unfair) as Primavera and The Birth of Venus, exhibits of his "golden years" in painting.

Two years before he tossed his personal collection of works to their fiery doom under Savonarola's direction, Botticelli painted the passion-infused Lamentation Over the Dead Christ with Saints. A vertical take on his more illustrious Lamentation over the Dead Christ, (without saints in the title) Botticelli disregards his previous realism approach to painting that he was so commended for. The neck of one of the Three Marys at Jesus' feet floats below her shoulders in a disturbing (Isolation dance move) fashion and Jesus' body appears scaled down in size and is being held up by his head and feet.

Despite the negligence of proportion and physical capabilities, the emotion and gesture depicted in this painted do more than redeem the aberrations. Botticelli expresses a pure grief and despair that I believe one can understand as a human without any familiarity with The Bible, Jesus' life, or Renaissance Art. Each face, shown or covered, tells a different story the provokes vivid sentiments in my mind in a captivating manner.




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