'St Michael' from the 'St Barnabas Altarpiece', after BotticelliArtist:
Charles Fairfax Murray
, British, 1849 - 1919
, Italian, 1444 - 1510
Material and Medium: watercolour on paper
Dimensions: Mount: 609 x 456mm
Support: 335 x 145mm
Accession Number: CGSG00074
John Ruskin was a great admirer of Botticelli, calling him ‘the greatest Florentine workman’. He always looked for poetic symbolism in Botticelli’s painting, which did not necessarily emerge in the principal figures.
The San Barnaba altarpiece depicts several saints and angels surrounding Virgin Mary and Christ figures. For Ruskin, St Michael - usually seen as a soldier and conqueror of the Devil - stood out as: ‘a simple knight of Florence… [with] no dragon beneath him, and no look of victory in his face... Only at last you see that he holds a globe in his hand, the globe of the world, and on its surface the dark seas take the cloudy shape of the dragon. He is the St Michael of Peace.'
Ruskin commissioned watercolours in response to this opinion and his reaction to Murray's study relates to it: 'I wish you had done the ball in St Michael's hand more carefully instead of his leg armour.'