Sandro Botticelli
Crucifixion with the Penitent Mary Magdalene and an Angel
(Mystic Crucifixion)

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1497 -98

72.3 X 51.3 cm

Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Harvard Art Museums

Mystic Crucifixion

These two paintings, the Mystic Crucifixion and the Mystic Nativity, show that the preacher Savonarola had some influence over Botticelli’s style of painting. The political climate also influenced Botticelli in the 1490’s. There were military threats on Florence that lead to two separate invasions. These are thought to be fulfillment of prophecies by Savonarola. The mid-millennium, or 1500’s, Savonarola said would be a turning point and renewal for the area. Because of all this, Florence was seen as a city chosen by God to experience renewal.

The painting, Mystic Crucifixion, is taken directly from a woodcut done of the vision Savonarola experienced. Botticelli showed the cross of God’s mercy as the focal point of his picture. In the background there is the flourishing city of Florence and a receding storm. There are barely discernable arrows coming from devil while on the other side are shields with small red crosses that will protect and make the devil retreat. God is in the upper corner of the picture sending his blessing on Florence.

In the foreground is Mary Magdalene showing her repentance for her lifestyle. A barely discernable fox, a symbol of evil, shows that evil can be tossed out by penitence, Mary being the example. The fact that there is an angel in the foreground shows that there is also an element of punishment. The angel is beating on a lion, which is a known symbol of Florence. This brings these two elements together. Punishment and penitence have taken the storm away and allowed God’s blessing to be on Florence.





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