Crocifissione mistica (c.1500)

Botticelli, Sandro (c.1445-1510)

Crocifissione mistica (Mystic Crucifixion)
Tempera and oil on canvas (transferred from panel), 72.4 x 51.4 cm
Fogg Art MuseumCambridge, MA

In the 1490s, Florence came under the sway of the magnetic Dominican preacher Girolamo Savonarola. The century had been one of unprecedented innovations in art and literature, but also of loosening social mores and rampant church corruption. Savonarola railed against immorality and unorthodoxy, warning that Judgment Day was imminent and that Florence would be punished for its sins. Botticelli’s brother was a follower of Savonarola, and the artist also came under his sway. In this painting, perhaps made for his own use, Botticelli incorporates themes from Savonarola’s incendiary sermons. Firebrands and weapons rain down from black storm clouds, and an angel of justice raises his sword to slay the marzocco, the small lion that is the emblem of Florence. The purified city is shown in the background, bathed in light emanating from God the Father, as white angels chase the clouds away. Mary Magdalene desperately clutches the foot of the cross, while a wolf, symbolizing clerical vice, flees from under her robe. (FAM)