Francesco Botticini’s (1446-1497) painting of the Virgin, an alterpiece installed in the church of San Pier Maggiore in Florence in 1477, was commissioned by Matteo Palmieri (1406–1475). He is portrayed kneeling at the lower left of the painting together with his wife, Niccolosa de’ Serragli, at the right.
This exhibition explores the fascinating life of Palmieri, a true Renaissance man who was educated in Florence as an apothecary, studied philosophy and rhetoric with the leading humanist scholars of the period, wrote histories, biographies and poetry, held top positions in the Florentine government, and developed close friendships with the Medici rulers of Florence.
Palmieri reportedly advised Botticini on the design of this painting, which incorporates a panoramic landscape of Florence in the lower register and an extraordinary dome of Heaven, populated with saints and angels, in the upper. The exhibition provides the rare opportunity to view the painting up close, and it will be shown alongside related paintings, drawings, prints, manuscripts, ceramics, and sculpture for the first time.
Crucially, the exhibition addresses centuries of debate surrounding the painting’s misattribution to Sandro Boticelli (1445-1510) its relationship to Palmieri’s poem ‘Città di Vita’ (City of Life) based on Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, and its condemnation for heresy.
The exhibition includes a short documentary film about San Pier Maggiore – a church largely destroyed in the 18th century – using surviving archival, archaeological, and visual material.