Since the Italian Renaissance, the paintings of the artist Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) have become widely recognizable as icons of the Florentine revival of antiquity and the wealth of the Medici family that commissioned many of them. During his lifetime, Botticelli’s depictions of Venus, a type well represented by the tableau in the Museum’s exhibition, was criticized by the Dominican preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498) as signs of the material decadence and moral laxity of the Florentines. This lecture will situate the Museum’s tableau and related paintings within the context of the dramatic events of the 1490s, which culminated in the “Bonfire of the Vanities" of 1497, in which a number of paintings were burned in the main public square of Florence. In the midst of these controversies, the subtleties of Botticelli’s art were obscured; this lecture will also provide an overview of the original inspirations for Botticelli’s paintings, and the unique poetic qualities of his compositions.
Dr. Kathryn Blair Moore teaches courses on Italian medieval and Renaissance art and Islamic art of the Mediterranean world in the Fine Arts Department of The University of Hong Kong. She studied art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where she wrote her PhD thesis on Italian depictions and recreations of the architecture of the Holy Land. Her publications have focused on interrelations between the arts of Italy and Islamic visual cultures, with a special focus on perceptions of Jerusalem and the origins of illustrated pilgrimage guidebooks. Before coming to HKU, she was an ACLS New Faculty Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and a Kress pre-doctoral Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.