Study day report: Botticelli Past and Present

Our recent SSN study day: New research on Paintings at the V&A: Botticelli Past and Present was held at the V&A and the National Gallery on Wednesday 16 March 2016. The aim of this study day was to consider different approaches to displaying and viewing the great Italian Renaissance artist, Botticelli.

The study day started at the V&A with an introduction from Ana Debenedetti, curator of the recently opened exhibition Botticelli Reimagined along with the exhibition designer, who discussed how the display first came together. The group then proceeded to the exhibition, where Ana elaborated on how the exhibition and its innovative approach to presenting the famous Old Master painter came to be developed. A discussion ensued regarding the materials used by Botticelli, with the V&A’s Head of Prints and Paintings, Mark Evans, comparing the qualities and use of oil and tempera.

The group then proceeded to the National Gallery for the afternoon session. After lunch, there was a group discussion in which delegates had the opportunity to pose further questions to Ana. She explained that a version of the exhibition had previously been open at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, though presented with a more conceptual approach: the works were not divided into sections as at the V&A, and there were no labels to give further information about the objects. This contrasting approach raised interesting questions about issues of display and interpretation. There were also questions about the demographic of visitors to the exhibition, and how it had been received by the public. Ana also discussed the issues surrounding juxtaposing Old Master paintings with contemporary art.

This was followed by a lecture from the National Gallery’s Research Curator, Susanna Avery-Quash, on the history of collecting works by Botticelli in the UK, and a walk through the Sainsbury Wing with Anna Koopstra, Simon Sainsbury Curatorial Assistant, who explored questions of display and the problems of attributing works to Botticelli and his workshop. 

Our next study day will explore research techniques and methodologies and will take place at the National Gallery on 29 June 2016. Find out more here.