Image permission and credit: British Museum
In the Rogers Sale Catalogue ascribed to Verrocchio, this exquisite drawing has long been regarded as one of the finest surviving works from Botticelli's hand. Various dates have been proposed for it; but critics are agreed in placing it within a few years of the 'Primavera'. Yashiro assigns the drawing to the year 1475, the picture to 1477. Berenson thinks that the drawing was done in the interval between the execution of the 'Primavera' and that of the 'Birth of Venus', but at a date nearer to the former, which, he considers, probably belongs to the year 1478. To Horne, who dates the 'Primavera' not long after 1477, it seems that the 'Abundance' was drawn in the years immediately succeeding the artist's return from Rome, in 1482.
It appears more likely that the drawing should have been done after rather than before the 'Primavera', since the figures do not have the slightly Verrocchiesque cast of countenance still discernible in the painting.
A weak Botticelli studio-piece representing Autumn, one of a set of the 'Four Seasons' formerly in the Rosebery Collection, reproduced by Lionello Venturi, 'Botticelli', 1937, opp. p. 13, represents a woman (accompanied by a single 'putto') carrying a cornucopia and a basket, both of which contain fruit. It thus seems possible that our drawing may likewise represent this season of the year, which is also the subject of another feeble painting from the artist's studio, at Chantilly (Gruyer Catalogue, 1899, no. 16; repr.K. der K., p. 133), often but incorrectly stated to be based on our drawing.
Horne saw our drawing still attached to what appeared to him to be a portion of one of Vasari's mounts. No trace of this has survived.
Literature: JCR 11; BB 567, fig. 191, pl. XL of 1st ed.; Grosvenor Gallery Winter Exh. 1877/8, no. 846; Catalogue descriptif des dessins . . . exposés à l'École des Beaux-Arts, 1879, no. 21; H. Ulmann, Sandro Botticelli, 1893, p. 88, repr. p. 87; B.M. Guide, 1895, no. 20; A. von Beckerath, Repertorium, xxix (1906), pp. 7 ff.; S. C(olvin), Vasari Society, First Series, iii (1907/8), 2; H. Horne, Sandro Botticelli, 1908, pp. 124 f. (repr.) and p. 325 ; Y. Yashiro, Sandro Botticelli, 1925, i, pp. 228 and 243, iii, pl. CCLXI; W. von Bode, Botticelli (Klassiker der Kunst), 1926, repr. p. xxiii; Van Marle, xii (1931), p. 194, fig. 116; A. Warburg, Gesammelte Schriften, 1932, p. 65 (repr.); O. Kurz, O.M.D., xii (1937/8), p. 13.
Composition influenced the Enoch and the Angel stained glass, Jesus College chapel, Cambridge