- Gallery Text
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.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro Filipepi), Italian (Florence, Italy 1444/45 - 1510 Florence, Italy)
- Mystic Crucifixion
- Other Titles
- Alternate Title: Saint Mary Magdalene at the Foot of the Cross / Crucifixion with the Penitent Magdalen and an Angel
- Work Type
- c. 1500
- Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Tuscany, Florence
- Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
View this object's location on our interactive map
- Physical Descriptions
- Tempera and oil on canvas (transferred from panel)
- 72.4 x 51.4 cm (28 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)
framed: 90.2 x 68.3 x 7.6 cm (35 1/2 x 26 7/8 x 3 in.)
- Palazzo Riccardi, Florence. Emile Peyre (Paris). Edouard Aynard (Lyon, c. 1900-1913), purchased in Florence, sold by his heirs through [Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, December 1-4, 1913, lot 38, not sold]. Marczell von Nemes, Munich, until 1922. [F. Kleinberger Galleries (by 1924)] sold; to Edward Forbes, sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1924.
Note: The painting was not in the Nemes collection between 1922 and 1924.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
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- Publication History
J. A. Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle, A history of painting in Italy, Umbria, Florence and Siena, from the second to the sixteenth century, ed. Langton Douglas, J. Murray (London, 1903-1914), vol. IV, p. 271
Herbert P. Horne, Alessandro Filipepi, commonly called Sandro Botticelli, painter of Florence, George Bell and Sons, Ltd. (London, 1908), pp. 301-302, repr.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910), vol. IV, under "Botticelli"
Adolfo Venturi, Storia dell'arte Italiana, U. Hoepli (Milan, 1911), VII, part 1, p. 641
Collection Edouard Aynard. Catalogue des tableaux anciens., auct. cat., Galerie Georges Petit (Paris, Dcember 1-4, 1913), pp. 48-50, repr. as no. 38
Wilhelm von Bode, Sandro Botticelli, Propyläen Verlag, Berlin (Berlin, Germany, 1921), pp. 176-177; repr. p. 173
Raimond Van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, M. Nijhoff Publishers (The Hague, 1923-1938), XII, p. 13; pp. 184-185, repr. as fig. 110
Frederick W. Coburn, "In the World of Art", Boston Sunday Herald (August 3 1924), repr.
[Reproduction only], The Harvard Crimson, (January 23 1925)., repr. in b/w p. 5
Yukio Yashiro, Sandro Botticelli, The Medici Society (London and Boston, 1925), vol. I, pp. 201-202, 231; vol. III, pl. CCLX
Adolfo Venturi, Botticelli, G. Crès et Cie (Paris, France, 1926), pp. 16, 75, 97
Wilhelm von Bode, Botticelli: des meisters werke in 155 abbildungen, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (1926), p. XXXVIII, repr. as pl. 92
Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1927), pp. 33-35, repr.
Yukio Yashiro, Sandro Botticelli and the Florentine Renaissance, Hale, Cushman & Flint, Inc. and The Medici Society (Boston and London, 1929), pp. 208-209, 221, 248; repr. as pl. CXLIV, CXLV
Girolamo Savonarola, Prediche e scritti; con introduzione, commento, nota bibliografica e uno studio sopra "L’influenza del Savonarola su la letteratura e l’arte del quattrocento" di Mario Ferrara, U. Hoepli (Milan, Italy, 1930), pp. 389-391
Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1931), pp. 40-43, repr.
Lionello Venturi, Pitture Italiane in America, U. Hoepli (Milan, 1931), repr. as pl. CXCIX
M. Ferrara, "Una tela del Botticelli d'isparazione Savonaroliana", Rivista dell'instituto nazionale di archaelogia e storia dell'arte (1932), IV, part I, pp. 82-90, repr.
Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: a list of the principal artists and their works, with an index of places, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, England, 1932), p. 101
Lionello Venturi, Italian Paintings in America, E. Weyhe Gallery (New York, NY, 1933), II, repr. as pl. 257
Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1936), pp. 64-67, ill.
Bernard Berenson, Pitture italiane (Milan, 1936), p. 87
Carlo Gamba, Botticelli, U. Hoepli (Milan, Italy, 1937), pp. 198-199, repr. as pl. 183
Lionello Venturi, Botticelli, Phaidon Press (Vienna, Austria, 1937), p. 24, repr.
Jacques Mesnil, Botticelli, A. Michel (Paris, France, 1938), pp. 169-171, 224; repr. as pl. XCVIII
Sergio Bettini, Botticelli, Istituto Italiano d'Arti Grafiche (Bergamo, Italy, 1942), p. 40, repr. as pl. 138
John Pope-Hennessey, Sandro Botticelli: 'The Nativity' in the National Gallery, London, National Gallery (London, England, 1947), pp. 5, 7-8, 12, repr. as fig. 3
Anthony Bertram, Sandro Botticelli, The Studio Publications Incorporated (London and New York, 1948), no. XLVIII, repr.
Luisa Vertova, Botticelli, Electa Editrice (Florence, Italy, 1949), p. 57, repr.
David M. Robb, The Harper History of Painting: The Occidental Tradition, Harper and Brothers Publishers (New York, NY, 1951), p. 272; repr. p. 271 as fig. 155
John Ives Sewall, A History of Western Art, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY, 1953), p. 663
Giulio Argan, Botticelli, Skira (Lausanne, 1957), p. 128, repr. p. 126
Roberto Salvini, Tutta la Pittura del Botticelli, Rizzoli (Milan, 1958), vol. 2, pp. 66-67, repr. as pl. 119
Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School, Phaidon Press (London, 1963), vol. I, p. 33; repr. vol. II as pl. 1095
Vincent Cronin, The Florentine Renaissance, Folio Society (London, 1967), p. 286, repr. in color between pp. 244-245
Edward Waldo Forbes, Yankee Visionary, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1971), pp. 128-131, repr. in b/w; p. 133; X-ray repr. p. 135
John Canaday, "Unlifting Some Familiar Faces at Yale", The New York Times (June 11 1972), section 2, p. 21
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 33
Yoshiro Masui, Botticelli, Zauho Press/Editions Shueisha (Tokyo, 1976), p. 121; repr. in color, pl. 59
Ronald M. Steinberg, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, Florentine Art, and Renaissance Historiography, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH, 1977), p. 61; repr. in b/w p. 70
Ronald Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli, University of California Press (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1977), vol. II, no. B81 in "Complete Catalogue," p. 94; repr. in vol. I as pl. 48
Yukio Yashiro, Sandro Botticelli, Iwanami Shoten (Tokyo, 1977), no. 64, repr. in b/w, with detail
Everett Fahy, "Italian Painting Before 1500", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 377-388, p. 388, repr. p. 388 as fig. 12
Samuel Y. Edgerton Jr., Pictures and Punishment, Cornell University Press (Ithaca NY and London, 1985), repr. in b/w as no. 9, p. 44
Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 173, p. 153, repr.
Ronald Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli: Life and Work, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1989), pp. 242-247, repr. in color, pl. 100
Caterina Caneva, Botticelli: Catalogo Completo dei Dipinti, exh. cat., Cantini Editore (Florence, Italy, 1990), no. 67, p. 126; repr. in color
Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), pp. 99, 318, repr. b/w cat. no. 627
Jane Dillenberger, Image and Spirit in Sacred and Secular Art, Crossroad Press (New York, NY, 1990), p. 37; repr. in b/w p. 38 as fig. 21
John Graham, "Simonetta's Portrait Validated", Tableau (February 1991), vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 68-71, repr. as fig. II-4 (article unpaginated)
Patrick Macey, "Infiamma il mio cor: Savonarolan Laude by and for Dominican nuns in Tuscany", The Crannied Wall: Women, Religion, and the Arts in Early Modern Europe, ed. Craig Monson, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI, 1992), repr. in b/w as fig. 5, p. 180
Maria Laura Testi Cristiani, Botticelli, Editoriale Giorgio Mondadori (Milan, Italy, 1992), pp. 9, 18; repr. p. 80 as fig. 58
Craig Monson, ed., The Crannied Wall: Women, Religion, and the Arts in Early Modern Europe, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1992), p. 180 repr. b/w as fig. 5
Josephine Jungic, "Raphael at Bologna and Savonarola's Prophecies of a 'Renovatio Ecclesiae'", Art History (December 1993), vol. 16, no. 4, p. 584; repr. in b/w as fig. 16, p. 585
Barbara Deimling, Sandro Botticelli 1444/45 - 1510, Benedikt Taschen Verlag (Cologne, Germany, 1993), no. 80, p. 95; repr. in color p. 80
Margaret Starbird, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, Bear & Co. Publishing (Santa Fe, NM, 1993), repr. in color as pl. 20
Rab Hatfield, "Botticelli's 'Mystic Nativity,' Savonarola and the Millenium", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (1995), 58, pp. 88-114, p. 112, repr. as fig. 40
Paul Joannides, "Late Botticelli: Archaism and Ideology", Arte Cristiana (May 1995-June 1995), fasc. 768, vol. LXXXIII, pp. 163-178, pp. 167-169, repr. in b/w as fig. 7, p. 168
Deborah Weisgall, "An Elegant Flower in a Modest Garden", The New York Times (February 2 1997), p. 40
Laurence Kanter and Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Botticelli's Witness: Changing Style in a Changing Florence, exh. cat., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, MA, 1997), pp. 51-53, repr. p. 53
Harvard University Art Museums, Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
Alexandra Grömling and Tilman Lingesleben, Alessandro Botticelli, 1444/45-1510, Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft (Köln, Germany, 1998), pp. 98-101, fig. 110, repr. in color on p. 100
Anneke Bokern and Petra Gördüren, Die Letzten Dinge: Jahrhundertwende und Jahrhundertende in der Bildenden Kunst um 1500 und 2000, Gebr. Mann Verlag (Berlin, 1999), p. 35; repr. in color as pl. 9, p. 59
Carol Plazzotta, Kingdom Come: Botticelli's "Mystic Nativity", brochure, National Gallery (London, England, 1999), repr. in color
Giancarlo Fiorenza, "Dosso Dossi, Garofalo, and the Costabili Polyptych: Imaging Spiritual Authority", The Art Bulletin (June 2000), vol. 82, no. 2, pp. 252-279, p. 271; repr. as fig. 22
Rev. Dr. David Brown, Discipleship and Imagination: Christian Tradition and Truth, Oxford University Press (NY) (Oxford, England, 2000), p. 46; repr. in b/w as pl. 1, with extensive caption
Sebastiano Gentile, ed., Sandro Botticelli: Pittore della Divina Commedia, exh. cat., Scuderie Papali al Quirinale (Rome, Italy, 2000), pp. 162-163, repr. in color as no. 4.16
Katherine L. Jansen, The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the later Middle Ages, Princeton University Press (Princeton NJ, 2000), pp. 194-196, repr. in b/w as fig. 33
Edgar Wind, The Religious Symbolism of Michelangelo: The Sistine Ceiling, Oxford University Press (NY) (Oxford, England and New York NY, 2000), pp. 28-29; repr. as fig. 170
"Sandro Botticelli", Geijutsu Shincho (Japan, March 2001), repr. in color p. 62
Samuel Y. Edgerton Jr., Theaters of Conversion: Religious Architecture and Indian Artisans in Colonial Mexico, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM, 2001), p. 24, repr. in b/w as fig. 1.5
Important Old Master Paintings, auct. cat., Christie's, New York (New York, NY, January 24 2003), under no. 75
Yves Bonnefoy, L'Arrière Pays, Gallimard (Paris, 2003), pp. 56, 111; repr. in color p. 71
Giovanni Fanelli, Brunelleschi's Cupola: Past and Present of an Architectural Masterpiece, Mandragora (Florence, Italy, 2004), detail repr. p. 47, fig. 22
Alessandro Cecchi, Botticelli, Federico Motta Editore (Milan, 2005), pp. 334-335, repr. in color p. 336
Hans Korner, Botticelli, DuMont Literatur und Kunst Verlag (2006), pp. 376-377, repr.
Tracey O'Shaughnessy, "Benedict: The man who can?", The Republica-American (April 25, 2008), Repr. in color: Section D, Page 1
Francesca Bewer, A Laboratory for Art: Harvard's Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900-1950, Harvard Art Museum and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA, 2010), p. 106-107, fig. 3.15
Alison Brown, Medicean and Savonarolan Florence: The Interplay of Politics, Humanism, and Religion, Brepols (Turnhout, Belgium, 2011), repr. on cover (detail)
Stefan Weppelmann and Ruben Rebmann, ed., The Botticelli Renaissance, exh. cat., Gemäldegalerie Berlin (Berlin, 2015), cat. no. 132, p. 282, repr.
Mark Evans and Stefan Weppelmann, Botticelli Reimagined, exh. cat., V & A Publishing (London, 2016), cat. no. 132, p. 282, repr.
John Spike and Alessandro Cecchi, Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting between the Medici and the Bonfires of the Vanities, exh. cat., Muscarelle Museum of Art and Centro Di (Williamsburg, Virginia, 2017), p. 36
The MFA Brings Renaissance Italy to Boston with Botticelli Exhibition, Boston Magazine (April 14, 2017), [e-journal], http://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/blog/2017/04/14/botticelli-mfa, accessed May 5, 2017
- Exhibition History
Italian Primitives: the Case History of a Collection and its Conservation, Yale University Art Gallery, 04/01/1972 - 09/01/1972
Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977
Florence and Its Image, Forte Belvedere, Florence, 06/29/1994 - 10/30/1994
Botticelli's Witness: Changing Style in a Changing Florence, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 01/24/1997 - 05/11/1997
Sandro Botticelli: pittore della Divina Commedia, Scuderie Papali al Quirinale, Rome, 09/20/2000 - 12/03/2000
Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 07/24/2015
32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/31/2017 - 01/01/2050
The Botticelli Renaissance, Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Berlin, 09/25/2015 - 01/24/2016; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 03/05/2016 - 07/03/2016
Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting between the Medici and the Bonfires of the Vanities, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 04/15/2017 - 07/09/2017
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
- Related Works
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