The Mystical Nativity (c. 1500) by Sandro Botticelli

The Mystical Nativity - Sandro Botticelli - c.1500 - c.1501

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Mystical Nativity
ArtistSandro Botticelli
Datec.1500 - c.1501
MediumTempera on Oil on Canvas
Dimensions109 x 75 cm
Art MovementEarly Renaissance
Current LocationNational Gallery, London

About The Mystical Nativity

“The Mystical Nativity” is a religious painting by Sandro Botticelli created circa 1500 – 1501. This artwork, exemplifying the Early Renaissance movement, employs tempera on canvas as its medium. The piece measures approximately 109 by 75 centimeters and is currently housed in the prestigious National Gallery in London.

The artwork is an intricate composition rich with symbolic imagery and emotional depth, representative of the religious fervor and philosophical thought of its time. At the center of the scene, under a simple thatched roof, the Virgin Mary kneels in adoration before the Christ Child, who is lying on the ground. This central motif of the nativity is surrounded by an assembly of angels and humans in various states of action and contemplation.

Above the manger, a group of angels dances in a circle, each holding olive branches, symbols of peace. Their flowing garments and graceful movements add a sense of celestial joy and harmony to the scene. A band of text in Greek, likely referencing religious scripture, hovers over this array of angels, further connecting the celestial to the earthly plane.

In the foreground, three pairs of angels and men appear to embrace, symbolizing the union of Heaven and Earth, a common theme in religious art. These figures also seem to be making gestures of binding and loosing, which was a motif associated with the power of binding demons or freeing souls from Purgatory, a subject of significant importance during the era in which Botticelli worked.

Enclosing the primary action are twelve angels, six on either side, bearing scrolls. Their presence signifies the prophetic and revelatory aspects deeply rooted in Christian iconography. Below, to the edges of the composition, three figures are seen recoiling from the central scene; their positioning and expressions suggest a narrative of rejection or fear in contrast to the central themes of acceptance and reverence.

The landscape in the background, serene and idyllic, contrasts greatly with the intensity and intricate symbolism found in the rest of the artwork. It sets a stage of calmness against which the sacred narrative unfolds.

Overall, the totality of elements in “The Mystical Nativity” forms a complex allegory of faith, prophecy, and salvation, consistent with the rich tradition of religious paintings from Botticelli’s time.

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