Thursday, December 22, 2011

Botticelli and the Mystic Nativity

I happened to catch a few minutes of this BBC series last night on TVO, (props to the government funded arts acronyms!) its called The Private life of {insert artwork or artist here} they featured one on Botticelli's Mystic Nativity which is in the National Gallery in London. It seemed like the history of the painting is really rich and incorporates the history of Florence in the turbulent times after the Bonfire of the vanities and Savonarola being burned as a heretic.

I have always looked at this image with a lot of care when I was spending time in the gallery, the demons which peak out of the cracks of the earth are fascinating and I love how Botticelli thought the world was coming to an end in 1500 AD because all the problems in Italy at that time. I had a huge chat with my friend Jan years ago and I used this painting as an example of how we always think things are getting worse in life, no matter what the evidence, we think we live at the end of days as it were.

As per usual, she thought I was full of shit and thought it best to let me know, another reason why we all miss Jan- daily.

I digress.

Anyways, when I was a student in Florence back in 1992, I was really into the compositional poetry of the large paintings in the Ufizi galleries there. I went so far as to base a painting of mine on Botticelli's Primavera....However my painting was based on a series of disturbing dreams I was having at the time about US POWs after Viet Nam (wow, i am outdoing myself on the acronyms ce soir!)

man, another picture I do not have a slide of, 20 years ago, I have to see if I can find any reference to that painting of mine and I'll insert it here at some point.
Yup, I remember it well, these Pows had the attributes of 1970s men, moustaches and such, as it turns out Freddie Mercury died at that time and he really resembled one of my characters, or visa versa.

Back to the topic, the Nativity painting, it is really strange and wonderful and makes reference to a speech by Savonarola and his visions of Mary (Click here if you would like to know more about this Dominican friar).

Boy did this drag on, anyways look, I could not fins the doc on youtube but I found others on the series here, look at the sidebar for ones on Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Degas, Picasso, Rodin and the Japanese artist Hokusai of the wave painting, of which I will shamelessly insert my own version of that image as part of my mixed media painting/photography.

The TV series shows you an image in a different light, ok, they don't examine contemporary work which would be awesome but what can I tell you?

Please have a look at the National Gallery UK's site the collection is terrific, there is so much stunning work there, every time i am in the UK, I walk in that gallery and it feels like I am visiting a relative, I'll spend the day there.