Alessandro Filipepi, more commonly known as Sandro Botticelli, is considered to be one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance. His works attract millions of visitors to the renowned Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and his frescos sit alongside the work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Which is why I was more than a little surprised to hear that the Musée Jacquemart-André would be presenting an exhibition on Botticelli this fall. How could such a small museum host such a big artist? Turns out, I had no reason to question it, because Botticelli: Artist & Designer was an extraordinary exhibition.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that Botticelli’s most famous works are not currently in Paris. The Uffizi Gallery is not about to send The Birth of Venus out of the country on loan. Not when that painting is one of the Uffizi’s main attractions. If not the main attraction. That would be like the Louvre lending out the Mona Lisa. It’s just not going to happen. Thankfully, however, Botticelli was very prolific, meaning there were more than enough works to fill the exhibition space. My personal favourite was La Bella Simonetta, an incredibly beautiful painting that has been borrowed from the Städel museum in Frankfurt. There were also portraits, drawings, embroideries, and tapestries on display, all showing the incredible variety of Botticelli’s work. There was even the only known illustration by the artist. It was an extraordinarily unassuming book given its importance in the history of art.
The exhibition also very much lived up to the second part of its name. Botticelli wasn’t just an artist. He was a designer, presiding over an incredibly successful studio in Florence. As the exhibition explains, artists employed by the same studio often worked together to create their commissions. Meaning Botticelli often entrusted certain elements of his paintings to his assistants and protégés. He would also re-use and re-invent certain models and drawing over and over again. The Birth of Venus may be back in Florence, but this exhibition included a pair of paintings that depicted the goddess in a very familiar pose. It was the next best thing to actually being in Florence. Furthermore, these studios did not create in a vacuum. They often inspired and influenced each other, and this exhibition included several paintings by Botticelli’s contemporaries that showcased this effect.
Sandro Botticelli is an artist who could easily command an exhibition at the Louvre. And yet, we are so spoilt in Paris, even the smaller museums are able to showcase an artist of this magnitude. To bring a little slice of Italy to France. It is something that I will never take for granted. It is certainly something I will forever be in awe of. Unsurprisingly, this exhibition is already one of the blockbuster art events of the fall, so if you’re planning on going, I recommend you book your tickets as soon as possible. Even without Botticelli’s most famous works, this is still an incredible exhibition that will absolutely give you a new appreciation for his artistic genius.
Botticelli: Artist & Designer runs until January 24th, 2022, at the Musée Jacquemart-André.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.