‘Every mother, when she picks up the young life that has been born to her, looks up to the heavens to thank God for the gift which made the world young again. But here was a mother, a Madonna who did not look up. She looked down to heaven, for this was heaven in her arms.’ – Venerable Fulton Sheen

 The words of the famous Archbishop resound through today’s masterpiece titled ‘The Madonna of the Book’ or ‘The Madonna del Libro’. Although small in size, the pictorial unity of this beautiful composition bridges the human and the divine through a mystery that predominates all of history. Preserved in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, the painting was executed by the lyrical Botticelli between 1480 and 1483.

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. Born in Florence, he was initially trained to be a goldsmith. However, in his mid-teens, he was smitten by the world of painting. He soon found his niche in a city overflowing with creativity. Leading at the cutting edge of art, the brilliant Botticelli came to be renowned for his delicate yet dramatic paintings.

The intricate philosophy of his art is remarkably rendered in ‘The Madonna of the Book’. We are drawn to its serenity and yet taken aback by the overflowing grace. The Blessed Virgin and Christ Child are presented in a devout domestic setting. Seated by a window in the corner of a room, the Blessed Mother holds, rather prays from the Book of Hours or the Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis, a common thirteenth-century prayer book.

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