Botticelli’s Secret: The Lost Drawings and the Rediscovery of the Renaissance
Joseph Luzzi / Bard College
A true historical “detective story” full of insight about how we look at art―and the artists and eras that produced it.
Some 500 years ago, Sandro Botticelli, a painter of humble origin, created work of unearthly beauty. An intimate associate of Florence’s unofficial rulers, the Medici, he was commissioned by a member of their family to execute a near-impossible project: to illustrate all 100 cantos of The Divine Comedy by the city’s greatest poet, Dante Alighieri. A powerful encounter between poet and artist, sacred and secular, earthly and evanescent, these drawings produced a wealth of stunning images but were never finished. Botticelli declined into poverty and obscurity, and his illustrations went missing for 400 years.
The nineteenth-century rediscovery of Botticelli’s Dante drawings brought scholars to their knees: this work embodied everything the Renaissance had come to mean. Today, Botticelli’s “Primavera” adorns household objects of every kind. This memorable presentation is essential to explain not only how and why this artist became iconic, but why we still need his work―and the spirit of the Renaissance―today.
Joseph Luzzi (PhD, Yale) is Professor of Comparative Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, and he taught previously at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in The New York Times, TLS, The London Times, the Guardian, Chronicle of Higher Education, and on National Public Radio. Dr. Luzzi’s awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. He is the author of five books and recently created The Virtual Book Club: an international community of readers dedicated to exploring major literary works past and present.