Botticelli, The Trinity with Saints - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Botticelli, The Trinity with Saints

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The Trinity with Saints

Alessandro Filipepi Botticelli

 


This painting is part of an altarpiece commissioned for a convent for repentant prostitutes, Sant’ Elisabetta delle Convertite in Florence.

In the centre is a vision of the Trinity: God the father, a dove symbolising the Holy Spirit and Christ on the cross. Flanking this surprising apparition are John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence, and Mary Magdalen, patroness of the convent. Mary is clothed by her hair and John wears fur, recalling the time both saints spent in the wilderness.

The Last Moments of St Mary Magdalen, Botticelli, 1491 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) - original Predella panel of the Courtauld painting
The Last Moments of St Mary Magdalen, Botticelli, 1491 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) – original Predella panel of the Courtauld painting

Life for the nuns of the Convertite was similarly austere. They were urged to follow Mary Magdalen’s example. The story of her conversion to Christianity was shown in four small panels once fixed below this painting (one is shown here).

Trinity with Saint Mary Magdalen and Saint John the Baptist, Archangel Raphael and Tobias
Detail of Tobias and the Angel

Two small figures, the Archangel Raphael and Tobias, walk in the landscape below the Trinity. Their graceful style differs in technique from the main figures. It was normal practice for artists like Botticelli to delegate portions of a large altarpiece to assistants. The angels surrounding the Trinity are certainly by members of his workshop.


 

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