Altarpiece of San Barnaba. Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and Angels

Galleria degli Uffizi

Author: Sandro Botticelli
Type: dipinto
Room: Sala 10-14


The San Barnaba Altarpiece is a tempera on panel painting by Sandro Botticelli, datable to 1487. The painting is first mentioned in 1510 by Albertini, who records it on the high altar of the church of San Barnaba in Florence. It was probably commissioned by the Arte dei Medici e Speziali who had the patronage of the church. It is a sacred conversation set around the high marble throne of the Virgin and Child, on which there is a shell, symbol of Mary/new Venus, and a canopy moved by two angels. Two others flank them in a play of rhythms and symmetries, and show the Child the symbols of the Passion, such as the crown of thorns and the three nails of the Cross. Mary has a sweet and affectionate image, slightly elongated and long as in the Bardi Madonna, with sharp features that give her an ascetic look, in which we can read the signs of the mystical crisis that gradually hit the artist after the arrival of Savonarola in the city. In fact, there is a subtle tension in the characters, which was more evident in later works. More marked is also the plasticism of the figures, the use of chiaroscuro and expressiveness is accentuated. The architecture of the background echoes the sumptuousness of the Roman classicism, which the artist had had the opportunity to admire in his stay of 1480-1482, but also Florentine works such as the Pazzi Chapel of Brunelleschi. It is a niche with a rectangular base covered by a round barrel vault, with a wide cornice in which there is also a frieze with gilded reliefs and with two round figures at the sides of the throne, representing the Announcing Angel and the Virgin Annunciate. The combination of conciseness and majesty heralds the art of the sixteenth century and is among the best results of the genre produced by the painter. On the throne of the Virgin is the oldest inscription in Italian on a painting, taken from canto XXXIII of Dante's Paradise: "Virgin mother and daughter of your son", the first verses of the prayer pronounced by Bernard of Clairvaux, which demonstrates an interest in the Florentine poet that culminated later in the illustrations to the Divine Comedy commented by Cristoforo Landino.

Photo Credits: Text Credits:

Try inQuadro !!

If you are not at the museum click on the link below and you can test our guide by framing some works directly on the DEMO page.

Are you around?

If you are near the museum you can reach it and by framing with your mobile you can discover the audio guide.