The Madonna Della Loggia by Botticelli arrives in St. Petersburg

Botticelli’s Madonna Della Loggia continues her journey in Russia, and from Vladivostok, after having crossed the region of the Russian Far East, she arrives in St. Petersburg.
The famous painting by the Italian Renaissance Master Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, after the great success with the public during the exhibitions at the Eastern Economic Forum, at the University of Vladivostok – on 4 and 5 September – and at the Primorye State Art Gallery in Vladivostok – from 8 September to 6 November – from 17 November it will be exhibited for the first time at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, as part of the series “Masterpieces of the World Museums at the Hermitage”.
The exhibition of the work was the central event of the cultural program of the V Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok and now it will also be the central event of the VIII International Forum of Culture in St. Petersburg, uniting the whole of Europe from Florence to Vladivostok. The various stages of the exhibition, sponsored and supported by the Embassy of Italy in Moscow, are organized by the Uffizi Gallery, with the collaboration of the various host locations: the State Hermitage Museum and the National Gallery Primorye of Vladivostok, together with MondoMostre, and are made possible thanks to the support of Sberbank.
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, was a valuable 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, exhibited in September at the National Gallery Primorye in Vladivostok, will be from next November 17 at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, making an impressive ideal journey throughout the territory of the Federation. It is therefore 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 Madonna della Loggia will be exhibited in the room of Leonardo da Vinci in the absence of the masterpieces of the Master. 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 Hermitage collection contains two works by the late Botticelli San Geronimo and San Domenico. The painting Madonna della Loggia belongs to his early works.

The slender Madonna, absorbed and thoughtful, with her head slightly reclined and her eyes lowered, tenderly clings to herself the Child who embraces her neck. Throughout his life Botticelli will remain the singer of feminine beauty, the paladin of the Madonna – blond, sad, with big sore eyes. In his creations there is always a lyrical note. In the painting of the Uffizi we can see the elements that can be found in the most famous works of the artist: the sweetness, the extraordinary sense of rhythm, the expressiveness of the thin, agile line. The harmony of the composition, which is felt here in the succession of the arches, is another characteristic of the master’s art. Agile outlines outline the figures of the characters, dominating the modelling of the volumes. From the very beginning Botticelli’s style was inclined towards a particular decorativism, which in our case can be seen in the rendering of the drapery and the nimbus. For the artist, as an exponent of the Florentine school, colour did not play a decisive role, but gave way to drawing. The traditional combination of blue and red for Mary’s garments creates a powerful effect of volumes and masses.
Botticelli follows the Byzantine iconographic typology known as “Mother of God Eleousa”, or “Tenderness”. And it is not by chance: it is the most intimate and heartfelt type of Marian representation among all those existing. In Russian icon painting, the most striking example of this representation is the famous “Mother of God of Vladimir”.
Together with Botticelli’s painting, a Greek icon belonging to the same iconographic typology is exhibited in Leonardo’s room. The Hermitage presents for the first time the icon “Mother of God Eleousa (of Tenderness)”, from the second half of the fifteenth century. The exhibition thus speaks to us of two different lines of development in painting, presenting two parallel currents, the Greek way and the Latin way. These terms, which indicate icons painted in a strictly Greek or modern Latin manner, appeared in the 15th century in the professional circles of artists and antique dealers. The icon of the Hermitage is a clear example of a Greek manner.
Byzantine theologians saw in the iconography of the “Mother of God Eleousa” the image of boundless Love, the foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the Cross of Jesus Christ, as the supreme expression of God’s love for men. Moreover, the theme of love between mother and son embodied in the image of Eleousa was extremely close and understandable to the faithful by its profoundly human accent. All this led to a wide diffusion of the icons belonging to this iconography in the Byzantine area, up to Ancient Rus’.
While the Byzantine masters concentrated on rendering the inner spiritual symbolism of the image of the Eleousa, in Western European art painters paid more attention to the human aspect of the theme, characterizing the representations of the Madonnas with real elements of the life of the time, using details of clothing, accessories, and the surrounding landscape.
The Greek master who painted the icon meticulously followed the ancient Byzantine iconography, even reproducing in the pictorial manner of the faces the style of the paleologous icons. He also managed to maintain the extraordinary echo of the symbolic accent of boundless Love that distinguishes the properly Byzantine icons of the “Mother of God Eleousa”. And only the crimson red colour of the maphorion of Mary, typical of the works of Venetian painting, attests to the fact that the icon was painted in the second half of the 15th century.
As the director of the Uffizi Gallery, Eike Schmidt, points out, “This exhibition reaffirms the friendship and collaboration not only between Italy and Russia, but also between the major cultural institutions of our countries. In this case the Uffizi and the Hermitage seal a tradition already established for centuries: Florence has repeatedly welcomed Dostoevsky, who between 1868 and 1869 finished his novel The Idiot while staying in front of Palazzo Pitti. And in the same palace, formerly the residence of the Grand Dukes, the new headquarters of the prestigious collection of Russian icons belonging to the Uffizi Gallery will be inaugurated at Christmas. I invite the Italian and Russian public to come and see these wonderful works, which were already purchased by the Medici and then by the Grand Dukes of Habsburg Lorraine.
Da parte dell’Ermitage la mostra è curata da Tatiana Kustodieva e Zoya Kuptsova del dipartimento dell’arte figurativa occidentale dell’Ermitage. I saggi in catalogo sono a cura di Maria Sframeli, Daniela Parenti e Tatiana Kustodieva.


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