Artibus et Historiae no. 69 (XXXV)

2014, ISSN 0391-9064

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CHARLES BURROUGHS - Indicating Heaven: Botticelli’s Coronation of the Virgin and Mediated Imagery (pp. 9–34)

Through the analysis of a major religious painting by Botticelli, this article builds on important recent work on Botticelli’s sacred art to explore apparent responses on the part of an especially sophisticated artist to the gathering atmosphere of crisis in the city’s political and religious life. The artist uses various devices of connection or separation between the viewer/worshiper and the holy image; these devices are not unique to the painting, but their combination is exceptional. First, Botticelli uses a hieratic gold ground to distinguish a scene set in heaven, the coronation of the Virgin, from a more earthly zone; here recent scruples about the representation of transcendence seem to be in play. Second, the figures beneath, four major saints, embody different ways of addressing the viewer and mediating between him/her and the heavenly event. Third, the latter appears to be treated as an apsidal image within an implied architectural setting, in other words, as a representation of a representation. By establishing modes of mediation, then, Botticelli confronts issues emerging as central to the representation of the sacred, in part on the basis of a critical understanding of Albertian picture theory.

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