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 Girolamo 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 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. The art historian Giorgio Vasari writes that the painter was ill and infirm, certainly, he received no commissions for paintings in his later years.