Auctions and Exhibitions

The Defining Masterpiece of Botticelli’s Late Career

New York | January 2022

On View in London through 7 December

One of the last great masterpieces remaining in private hands by renowned Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, The Man of Sorrows will star in Sotheby’s annual Masters Week sales series in New York in January 2022. Executed in the late 1490s or early 1500s, it is a masterful late period work by the artist, when Botticelli was greatly influenced by the fanatical Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola and adopted a style characterized by Christian symbolism and visionary spirituality. A departure from his poetic mythological scenes like the Birth of Venus and Primavera of the previous decade, Botticelli’s output from the 1490s and onward are more sober, austere and spiritual in nature. The painting’s most distinctive features are the strictly frontal presentation of Christ and the halo of angels holding instruments of the Passion painted in grisaille, a painting technique by which an image is executed entirely in shades of gray and usually severely modeled to create the illusion of sculpture. Covering their eyes in a variety of gestures conveying their grief over Christ’s suffering, angels orbit around Christ’s head against a solemn black background. The portrait of the resurrected Christ reveals an important coda to Botticelli’s well-known earlier career, while also encapsulating the artist’s singular style with a stunningly modern and human portrayal of Christ.

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