Sandro Botticelli’s late period.
The artist’s later works are filled with religious subjects
but also contain some portraits commissioned by wealthy patrons
Botticelli fell under the influence of the radical Dominican preaching monk Savonarola a figure who exercised immense influence over the city of Florence. He became an ardent follower, and there is a story that he destroyed some of his paintings in Savonarola's notorious Bonfire of the Vanities on February 7th 1497, (the ritual of burning objects of sin, such as songs, books, manuscripts and artwork deemed to be immoral). Savonarola, after being condemned as a heretic and then excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI, was eventually strangled and burned to death in Florence on May 23rd 1498.
In this almost surrealistic picture, the Holly Family are painted on a larger scale than the other figures in the painting, a throwback to medieval works. The end of the century was a time of uncertainty filled with apocalyptic visions of the end of the world. The Mystical Nativity highlights this paranoia with its images of saints and devils and dancing angels, a fragile mix of good and evil that epitomised renaissance Italy.
In 1504 the artist was appointed to the committee to decide on a site for Michelangelo's statue of David, he had also served on the committee to decide the facade for the Cathedral in Florence.
Apart from a brief
revival in the middle of the 16th century when the Mannerist artists
took inspiration from the linear elegance his work Botticelli’s paintings faded
into virtual obscurity at an alarming rate. Thereafter he became a largely forgotten
figure until the 19th-century revival of interest in the Renaissance
gave him a fame that has endured to the present day.
Sandro Botticelli died on May 17th 1510 in Florence and the details of the last part of his life remain a mystery. Vasari writes that the painter was ill and infirm, certainly, he received no commissions for paintings in his later years.