Sandro Botticelli - The Story of Lucretia, about 1500

Sandro Botticelli (Florence, 1444 or 1445 - 1510, Florence)

The Story of Lucretia, about 1500

Tempera and oil on panel, 83.8 x 176.8 cm (33 x 69 5/8 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Probably commissioned for Giovanni di Guidantonio Vespucci (1476–1534) and Namicina di Benedetto Nerli at Casa Vespucci, Via de' Servi, Florence, about 1500. (as part of a spalliere)
Purchased by the patrician Piero Salviati in 1533. (as part of the purchase of Casa Vespucci)
By descent to Lucrezia Salviati and her husband, the musician, writer and scientist Giovanni de Bardi di Vernio, after 1568 until about 1584.
Collection of Bertram Ashburnham, 5th Earl of Ashburnham (1840–1913), Ashburnham Place, Sussex by 1894.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Bertram Ashburnham, London for £3400 on 19 December 1894 through the American art historian Bernard Berenson (1865–1959).

Dimension Notes

Frame: 104.14 x 199.71 x 7.62 cm (41 x 78 5/8 x 3 in.)


Bernard Berenson. "Les Peintures Italiennes de New York et de Boston ." Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1896), pp. 195, 206-07, ill.
Art Exhibition: Mrs. John L. Gardner, 152 Beacon St., Boston. Exh. cat. (Boston, 1899), p. 7, no. 13.
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 10.
William Rankin. "Cassone Fronts in American Collections." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 9 (1906), p. 288.
Wilhelm Bode. Sandro Botticelli (London, 1925), pp. 96, 128-29, 141.
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 66-69.
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 113.
Morris Carter. "Mrs. Gardner & The Treasures of Fenway Court" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), pp. 6, 56.
Stuart Preston. "The Tragedy of Lucretia" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), pp. 22-23, ills.
Corinna Lindon Smith. Interesting People (Norman, Oklahoma, 1962), p. 158
Guy Walton. "The Lucretia Panel in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston" in Essays in Honor of Walter Friedlaender (New York: The Institute of Fine Art, 1965), pp. 177-86.
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 8, no. 44 (4 Jul. 1965), pp. 2-3. (excerpting Guy Walton, pp. 177-86)
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Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987),pp. 35, 39-40, 176, 294, 487.
Ronald Lightbown. Sandro Botticelli: Life and Work (New York, 1989), pp. 264-269.
Hilliard Goldfarb. Imaging the Self in Renaissance Italy. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum III. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1992), pp. 29-31.
Hilliard Goldfarb and Susan Sinclair. Isabella Stewart Gardner: Woman and the Myth. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1994), 19-20.
Anne B. Barriault. Spalliera Paintings of Renaissance Tuscany: Fables of Poets for Patrician Homes (University Park, Pennsylvania, 1994), pp. 154, 181, no. 13.2.
Jonathan Nelson. "Filippino Lippi's 'Allegory of Discord': A Warning about Families and Politics." Gazette des Beaux-Arts (Dec. 1996), pp. 237-52.
Laurence Kanter. "Sandro Botticelli, The Tragedy of Lucretia" in Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Italian Paintings and Drawings Before 1800 in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1996-2000).
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Rights and reproductions

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According to legend, Lucretia’s brutal rape and tragic suicide precipitated the foundation of the Roman Republic. Botticelli distilled Lucretia’s shocking story into three episodes, beginning at the left. Beautiful and chaste, she attracts the unwanted attention of the king’s son, who threatens Lucretia at knifepoint with sexual assault or a dishonorable death. Raped, she collapses in shame before her outraged family, depicted at the right, and ultimately commits suicide.

The public display of Lucretia’s corpse galvanized the rebels led by Brutus. Brandishing a sword, he rallies an army to overthrow the corrupt regime. The architectural setting of the rebellion remakes the past into the present, likening ancient Rome to Renaissance Florence. Botticelli transformed Lucretia’s body—dagger embedded in her chest—into an emblem of liberty, like the Christian hero and Florentine icon David, who stands on the column above her. Botticelli painted this work to decorate a palace in Florence in connection with a marriage. Perhaps with this in mind, Isabella Gardner placed a cassone, or wedding chest, beneath it. The Renaissance bride filled her cassone with prized and personal belongings—linens, undergarments, jewelry, cosmetics, and sewing implements. Mrs. Gardner draped a velvet textile (now a reproduction) over this cassone and put inside other textiles and an eighteenth-century guitar.