Botticelli Madonna’s Match

Two Madonnas by Botticelli

Botticelli’s washed out palette continues to interest me, particularly when it’s compared to the bright colour choices made by his student Fillipino Lippi, who I think actually manages to outdo his master in rendering what have to be the most beautiful women in the history of painting. Botticelli was terrible at drawing men, but great at crafting his women; his teaching enabled Fillipino to do both well. I prefer the brighter colours of Fillipino’s works, but love the way Botticelli lets lightly coloured lines work for him, finding graceful edges to those slender faces and fingers.

In examining Botticelli’s Madonnas I noticed two that looked very similar, so I put them together in Photoshop to see if they matched. They were almost perfect copies, with the features of the face arranged in identical positions. with the exception of some alteration of the mouth and closing the eyes. I’m intrigued to find out if this has been noted by Art Historians, so I’ll do a little digging. If the two faces are the same size I think one is a tracing of the other, as a drawing re-rendered for a second commission; if the sizes are different I wonder if this is evidence of Hockney’s theory that lenses were in use in the studios of renaissance artists.

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
This entry was posted in Other people's work, Sources. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Botticelli Madonna’s Match

  1. Ben Hengst says:

    I’m sure you’re right, with commissions for similar paintings there’s really no reason not to copy.

  2. pearce says:

    You’re missing the point. These two Madonnas are so similar when laid on top of each other that I suspect that they are duplicates, made by Botticelli’s use of a tracing or pricked drawing.

  3. Ben Hengst says:

    They look the same because he made them up. Early and High Renaissance artists used models only for study. Reliance on real life was considered a handicap. That continued even through Mannerism and into the early part of the Baroque when Caravaggio was ridiculed by his peers for making paintings in which real people represented holy figures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.