Botticelli Spun Masterful Scenes Of Historical Complexity

Feb 28, 2019 328

BY: Lloyd Schwartz

Even before she had a museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner had a Botticelli — the first painting by the late 15th-century Italian artist to enter this country. It wasn’t one of the ravishing masterpieces casual art lovers are familiar with: “Primavera” or “The Birth of Venus” — those magnificent large-scale paintings that lure thousands of visitors to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

It was instead a grim and morally charged painting on a “classical” theme, “The Tragedy of Lucretia.” The painting is difficult and has always been hard to get close to hanging over a nuptial chest in the Gardner’s Raphael Room (Mrs. Gardner also brought the first Raphael to America). 

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