Botticelli in San Francisco

Works of the Florentine Renaissance master painter and draughtsman Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445–1510) have been lent by Christ Church to the Legion of Honor gallery in San Francisco. Jacqueline Thalmann, Curator of Christ Church Picture Gallery, explains the significance of these works and of the exhibition that runs until 11 February 2024. 

On Saturday 18 November 2023, the exhibition Botticelli Drawings opened at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. It is the first show dedicated to the drawings of Sandro Botticelli, the quintessential artist of the Florentine Renaissance. The exhibition offers a novel and never-exhibited approach to the master who painted The Birth of Venus and La Primavera – diving fascinatingly into the artistic and creative processes of Botticelli’s vibrant workshop.

Christ Church Picture Gallery is contributing with four works to the show: two drawings newly attributed to Botticelli (pictured above), and the two intriguing paintings showing the ten sibyls – the ten female prophets, whose oracles were known to the ancients (pictured below). These two panels are at the centre of Botticelli’s collaboration with his younger fellow artist Filippino Lippi (c. 1457–1504). 

Paintings by Botticelli and Lippi from the Christ Church collection
Top: Sandro Botticelli, Five Sibyls in Niches: The Persian, Libyan, Delphic, Cimmerian, and Erythraean (JBS 35).
Bottom: Filippino Lippi, Five Sibyls in Niches: The Samian, Cumean, Hellespontic, Phrygian, and Tiburtine (JBS 36).


The exhibition opened with a symposium at which the Picture Gallery’s curator, Jacqueline Thalmann, talked about the two panels and revealed their underdrawings, which were last visible over half a millennium ago, at the beginning of their creation.

The Gunn Theatre at the Legion of Honor was full to capacity and many more people followed the talks online. (The talks can now be viewed here.)

The exhibition will run until 11 February 2024 – do go and visit should you be in the area. The rarity and fragility of the works, from over 60 lenders, means that it is unlikely that an event like this will be repeated for decades to come. 

Christ Church Picture Gallery is preparing a display of the Sibyl panels and their underdrawings for the end of 2024.