Virgin and Child with an Angel

Sandro Botticelli

Tempera on Wood


85.2 × 65 cm

At the age of sixteen, I fell in love with this portrait of Mary.  It is a love that has gripped my heart ever since.  My eyes tear up just thinking about it.  The anticipation of seeing her again in December releases butterflies in my stomach.

Alain de Botton argues that we don’t know why we love the art what we love.  I’m reminded of Prince Lir’s line in The Last Unicorn: “I love whom I love.” But maybe, in the case of this painting, a better explanation is warranted.

This woman is gentle, peaceful.  The angel is holding symbols of abundance.  Love surrounds this trio; they are comfortable with each other.

This painting is making a few promises:

  • Life is simple.
  • Life is full of love.
  • Life is full of peace.
  • There is enough wealth to go around.

In the computer-based, productivity-focused, always-striving-for-more-never-good-enough consumerist world I find myself immersed in, this painting promises that there is a lifestyle where it is good enough to just be myself.  I constantly battle with money – there is never enough of it, and the more money I make the more I spend, leaving me with a lot of clutter and an empty bank account, a constant harassment of “not enough.”

The three figures in this painting are gazing lovingly at the grapes and the wheat.  The baby is holding his hand up in blessing.  This is good.  This is wealth.  This is simple.

This is enough.


Okay so that is dissecting Isabella’s Botticelli based on the symbols.  Let’s look at the painting simply based on the way the Little Barrel has approached it: the love applied with each brush stroke is so apparent to me. Just the way the light falls on their faces, bright light to see by but not blinding, burning light.  As if they are sitting in a cool room with a big window.  The graceful hands look as if they could be emitting music.

Paintings like this could help save the world actually.

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