Josiah McElheny, Halo after Botticelli, 1997–99. Framed photograph, handblown glass with 24-karat gold, steel mounting hardware, and painted wood, two parts, each 17 1/2 x 15 1/4 inches (44.5 x 38.7 cm); 12 1/4 x 12 1/4 x 1/8 inches (31.1 x 31.1 x 0.3 cm). Gift of Lucille and Richard Spagnuolo. © Josiah McElheny
Josiah McElheny is known for sculptural installations of handmade glass objects in precisely designed vitrines, pedestals, or wall units. They are often accompanied by explanatory texts, documentation, or titles that reflect on the origins of traditional craft and design, their role in the history of modern aesthetics, and the ideologies these aesthetics project.
Included in the major exhibition Josiah McElheny: Some Pictures of the Infinite at the ICA in 2012, Halo after Botticelli features a wall-mounted, circular glass object juxtaposed with a framed reproduction of a portion of Sandro Botticelli’s painting Virgin and Child with an Angel (1470–74). A three-dimensional reimagining of the diaphanous halo that appears atop the Virgin Mary’s head in Botticelli’s painting, the handmade glass object is studded with a network of gold stars that refracts light against the wall, suggesting the heavenly matter of the halo, which itself refracts celestial power in order to identify a figure of divine influence. As a sculptural translation of Renaissance iconography, Halo after Botticelli also acknowledges the genealogies of influence within the history of Western art.
Halo after Botticelli represents an important early strain of McElheny’s work, a strong complement to another of his works in the ICA collection, the mirrored sculptural tableau Czech Modernism Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely (2005).