BOTTICELLI, Sandro
(b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)

Madonna of the Magnificat

c. 1483
Tempera on panel, diameter 118 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Virgin Mary, crowned by two angels, is depicted on a throne. Under the guidance of her son, she is writing the canticle "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" (My soul doth magnify the Lord), which gives the painting its title. Jesus is sitting in his mother's lap. He is touching a pomegranate, a fruit with many symbolic meanings, and whose red seeds recall the blood shed by Jesus to save humankind. The scene takes place before a window that opens out onto a bright, peaceful country landscape; above, the Serena stone frame creates a division between the kingdom of Heaven and the earth. The religious theme becomes almost temporal in the fashionable, elegant hairstyles of Mary and the angels, who, as in various other works by Botticelli, are without wings. The Virgin's blonde hair with bright gold finish is covered by transparent veils under a richly decorated maphorion, while the hairstyles and clothing of the angels are based on the fashions followed by the scions of the rich Florentine families of the late 15th century.

The originality of the work, together with the sophisticated elegance of the clothing and hair, and the grace of Mary's engrossed expression, have, over the years, brought renown to the invention of Botticelli, whose figures embody an ideal of beauty that was greatly appreciated during the 20th century.