The fine arts, but above all sacred art, “of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands…” (CCC 2513).
Madonna of the Magnificat
Botticelli created his Madonna del Magnificat in 1481. At the time, it was his most famous picture of the Virgin. Botticelli has portrayed the Virgin writing, engaged in completing the final lines of a book held out towards her by two angels. She is moving her quill towards the inkpot with a graceful movement of her hand, in order to finish the text which is being dictated to her by the Christ Child. It has been possible to identify the lines on the left-hand side of the book as the hymn of St Zacharias, a song on the birth of his son, John the Baptist, principal patron saint of Florence. It would thus appear probable that Botticelli had executed the painting for a Florentine client. On the right-hand side of the book are the first words of the Magnificat, Mary’s hymn of praise (Lk: 1:46–55), which gave the picture its name. Together with Adoration of the Magi, this picture is one of Botticelli’s first round pictures, or tondi. Such tondi were very popular in 15th- and 16th-century Florence. However, they served not as altarpieces but as decoration in the rooms of secular buildings, such as private palaces or guild houses.
Botticelli has integrated his large figures into the circular format of the painting in a particularly sensitive manner. The slightly bowed posture of Mary’s body and her left arm form a semicircle that follows the curve of the frame. This matching of the composition to the pictorial form is repeated on the opposite side in the bent right arm of the angel who is leaning over the two angels in front in order to cast a glance at the book lying open before them. It is evident, however, that Botticelli had some difficulty accommodating the fourth angel on the left-hand side, who is in the process of placing the heavenly crown upon Mary’s head; indeed, it seems almost as if the other three angels are squeezing him out of the painting. (Credit: http://www.sandro-botticelli.com)
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Truth Beauty, and Sacred Art (2501)
Created “in the image of God,” man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man (CCC 2501).
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
– St. Paul, Letter to the Philippians (4:8)
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.