The Madonna of Botticelli’s Lodge goes to Russia

The Madonna Della Loggia, a painting from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, by the famous Italian Renaissance Master Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), will be exhibited for the first time in Russia.

The two exhibition stages of the work will be at the centre of the cultural programme of the V Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok and of the VIII International Forum of Culture in St Petersburg, thanks to the support of Sberbank. The exhibitions, sponsored and supported by the Italian Embassy in Moscow, are organized by the Uffizi Gallery, the National Primorye Gallery in Vladivostok, the State Hermitage Museum, with MondoMostre and the organizational support of Roscongress.

On the initiative of the General Partner of the project, PAO Sberbank, blind and visually impaired people will also have access to the masterpiece: together with the original work, a tactile copy of the painting will be exhibited with the appropriate audio guide.

As the Italian Ambassador in Moscow, Pasquale Terracciano, states: “The exhibition of the Madonna della Loggia by Sandro Botticelli, on the occasion of Italy’s first participation in the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, is a precious opportunity to present the extraordinary beauty of Italian art in the Russian Far East, where in the past the Italian Embassy in Moscow had never organized exhibitions with the excellence of our pictorial art. The work will be exhibited at the National Gallery Primorye in Vladivostok, and then, from November, at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, making an impressive ideal journey throughout the territory of the Federation. It will therefore be a unique event, of great symbolic value, which responds to the intent to bring our culture even in the most distant regions, making our art more accessible to the many lovers of Italy throughout the Federation.

The first stage of the exhibition will take place on 4 and 5 September 2019, when the Madonna della Loggia will be exhibited at the Eastern Economic Forum, at the University of Vladivostok. Afterwards, from 8 September to 6 November 2019 you can see her at the National Gallery Primorye in Vladivostok. For the first time the region of the Russian Far East will host a work from an Italian museum.

From 17 November the Madonna of the Lodge will be on display at the Hermitage in St Petersburg in Leonardo da Vinci’s room in the absence of the Madonna Litta. In the year of the celebrations of Leonardo, the Hermitage has in fact lent to the Italian museums for temporary exhibitions both masterpieces of Leonardo – Madonna Benois and Madonna Litta.

The Madonna della Loggia is a young painting by Sandro Botticelli. The Madonna holds the Child to herself, who stretches her little hand to touch her cheek. The artist uses an ancient Byzantine iconography known as Glikophilousa (in Greek Glikophilousa means “sweet lover” or “sweet kiss”; in Russian tradition it is more often called Eleousa or Tenderness). And it is not by chance: it is the most intensely emotional and intimate example of the representation of the Mother of God. In Russian iconography, the icon Theotokos of Vladimir (Our Lady of Vladimir) is the most powerful example.  Again, Botticelli expresses a mother’s natural feeling for her son in a composition that exudes a sense of tender intimacy: Mary appears thoughtful, prefiguring the painful destiny that awaits her son. The two figures are set within a Renaissance architecture open to the background, a loggia from which the painting takes its title. It is a very early painting in Botticelli’s career, as suggested by the references to the style of Filippo Lippi, in whose workshop Sandro completed his apprenticeship as a painter after attending, at a very young age, the workshop of a goldsmith. Botticelli left Lippi’s workshop around 1467, when the master moved to Spoleto, and approached Andrea Verrocchio, the other great master decisive for his training: the execution of the Madonna della Loggia dates back to this time. The work, which originally had to be placed in a tabernacle frame, was probably a “ridge chamber”, or rather a typical object intended for private devotion: this was the production to which artists generally dedicated themselves before receiving more demanding commissions. We know nothing about the commissioning of the painting, which reached the Uffizi Gallery only in 1784.

Botticelli’s early works coincide chronologically with the strengthening in Florence of the powerful Medici family, bankers with branches throughout Europe. The definitive settlement of the Medici hegemony and the patronage of Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent historically coincide with the moment of maximum splendour of Florentine art. One of the protagonists of that splendid period of patronage was Sandro Botticelli, who today has become one of the most emblematic painters of the Renaissance: both in his life and in his artistic production, he perfectly represents the parable of Florentine culture and society between the Medici apogee and the Republic of Savonarola.

Already around the middle of the fifteenth century, the Medici possessed an important collection of paintings, sculptures and precious objects, as recorded in the inventories, from the inventory of the property of Cosimo il Vecchio to that drawn up at the death of Lorenzo il Magnifico, which bears witness to the change in the role of the family in the government of the city, comparable in every respect to that of a ‘court’.


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