Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Botticelli's Pallas and the Centaur



Botticelli was and artist from Florence who started out by drawing and painting sculpted figures. The piece I chose to discuss is Pallas and the Centaur. Botticelli did a lot of work for the Medici family in Florence and this painting was commissioned by Lorenzo Medici.

This painting is intriguing to me because it tells quite a story. In Greek mythology centaurs are wild and crazy beasts, but it is being tamed by Pallas who is the goddess Athena. Athena is the goddess of wisdom in Greek mythology. The story goes that Pallas represents Lorenzo Medici and the Centaur represents the King of Naples.

The reason behind this painting is quite interesting. The Medici family were bankers and had loaned money to the King of Naples. Being bankers they charged interest on loans that they made, but in this particular case the king did not want to pay interest, so he threatened to attack Florence. Lorenzo Medici in turn went to Naples to change the king's mind, and he was able to avoid the conflict by agreeing not to charge interest in this case. Back in Florence Lorenzo Medici was considered a hero and the painting represents Medici taming the wild king.

In the painting there are a few indicators to show who each figure represents. The centaur is wearing a red ribbon around him and this is meant to represent the King of Naples. As for Pallas, the three circles on the lower part of the garment represent the Medici family crest and in turn identifies the figure as Lorenzo Medici.

Kren, Emil, Marx, Daniel. “Web Gallery of Art” . March 2, 2010
http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/b/botticel/5allegor/20pallas.html.

Kren, Emil, Marx, Daniel. “Web Gallery of Art” . March 2, 2010
http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/b/botticel/biography.html.

"Solar Utilities Network". Solar Utilities Network. March 2, 2010 http://www.solarnet.org/Travel/art/F06PallasCentaur.jpg.

Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History: Fourteenth to Seventeenth Century Art 4. 5 vols.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2009.

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