Alessandro Filipepi Botticelli

The Trinity with Saints, 1491-94

Tempera and oil on panel
Samuel Courtauld Trust: Lee Bequest, 1947

The Trinity with Saints by Botticelli The Trinity with St Mary Magdalene and St John the Baptist, the Archangel Raphael and Tobias, Botticelli and assistants 1491-1494, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Botticelli the last moments of st mary magdalene
The Last Moments of St Mary Magdalen, Botticelli, 1491 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
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.

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).

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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