All About The Story of Lucretia by Sandro Botticelli

Janice K. Johnson

Title of Artwork: “The Story of Lucretia”

All About The Story of Lucretia by Sandro Botticelli

Artwork by Sandro Botticelli

Year Created 1496 – 1504

Summary of The Story of Lucretia

Sandro Botticelli, an Italian Renaissance painter, painted The Tragedy of Lucretia between 1496 and 1504 using tempera and oil on a wood cassone or spalliera panel. Informally called the Botticelli Lucretia, this painting was once owned by Isabella Stewart Gardner and is now on display in her museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

All About The Story of Lucretia

Botticelli combined scenes from many legends and eras because he saw connections between them. Revolt against tyranny is a hot topic in the unstable Italian republics, and it is the focus of this article. The focus is squarely on the primary action. This event marks the start of the uprising that would eventually establish the Roman Republic.

According to urban legend, Sextus Tarquinius, the son of Rome’s last king, raped the noblewoman Lucretia. Therefore, Lucius Junius Brutus swore to banish the Tarquinii from Rome and to never again let them to rule. Lucretia’s body is prominently displayed as a hero in the middle of the photo. Brutus maintains guard over her as he rallies the people to revolt and enlists young men for his revolutionary army.

Lots of threats are made with blades drawn. Lucretia committed suicide, and the dagger she used to do so is protruding from her chest. Although the head of David and Goliath atop the column behind Brutus in the foreground is an unlikely symbol of revenge, it is appropriate given the current political climate. In the Republic of Florence, David and Goliath represented the people’s uprising against oppression. The assembly’s goal was to carry out Brutus’ plan to overthrow the monarchy, which ran against to Lucretia’s desire for vengeance.

Botticelli makes no attempt to depict the Forum Romanum, where the fabled funeral oration was delivered. In the background, a little village stretches out into the countryside; some have suggested that this is Collatia, albeit it was hardly the epicentre of a national revolution. Even the triumphal arch celebrating the republic’s victory in the background isn’t typical of classical Roman architecture.

However, Hilliard T. Goldfarb, author of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A Companion Guide and History, argues that the painting is actually a dramatic stage scene in which the actors are using dramatic gestures to express “a clear political message.” Obviously the panel was intended for public exhibition, as it would be absurd to commission one of the finest artists of the time to decorate the interior of a wedding chest or the back of a chair, even in a house. Even though Botticelli died in obscurity and poverty ten years later, he was still widely acknowledged as a genius in his day.

On the right porch, we see Lucretia’s funeral procession. Above the doorway is a frieze featuring Horatius Cocles, a Roman soldier who fought off an attack by Lars Porsenna and the renegade army of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the city’s final monarch. What we see unfolding on the left porch is Sextus’s attempt to coerce Lucretia into submission through the use of threats. He takes her cloak off and holds forth his sword, ready to pierce her. It has a frieze above it that represents Judith and Holofernes, the Old Testament ruler she beheaded after he offered himself to her in a sexual encounter.


Information Citations:

En.wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/.

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