Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 1421 - 1497) was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. He is best known for a series of murals in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi depicting festive, vibrant processions with wonderful attention to detail and a pronounced International Gothic influence.
According to Giorgio Vasari, in the early part of his career he was a pupil and assistant of Fra Angelico: some of the works in the convent of San Marco of Florence were executed by Gozzoli from Angelico's design. In 1444-1447 he collaborated with Lorenzo Ghiberti and his studio on the Paradise Doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni.
In 1459 Benozzo was summoned to Florence by the Medici to carry out the prestigious commission - the most important of his career - of decorating the walls of the Capella di Palazzo Medici-Ricardi. The subject chosen was the Procession of the Magi in which he portrayed various members of the Medici family, with its young princes handsomely, even flamboyantly dressed and all set against a wonderful landscape, creating the fairy tale of the Renaissance (1459-60).
'Up to the end of the nineteenth century, when the original entrance to the chapel was closed up (1875-1876), the visitors and the faithful about to enter the chapel from the vestibule were introduced into the cycle of the pictorial decoration by the Mystic Lamb painted by Gozzoli above the small fifteenth-century portal.
A meek, snow-white lamb, with the crossed halo of Christ the Redeemer, is crouched upon an altar in front of seven gilded candelabra. From beneath the body of the animal, whose eye is fixed on the observer, seven red seals hang down from the altar table. The altar itself is covered in a cloth of embroidered linen that ends in a fringe in the three alternating colours of white, red and green that recur throughout the decoration of the chapel.
The altar frontal is made of velvet brocade with a white pomegranate motif on a red ground. In terms of the viewpoint from the vestibule in front of the chapel, the Mystic Lamb is in close visual relation with the rear wall of the chapel, with the Symbols of the Evangelists portrayed there (only two of which survive) and the Adoration of the Child, which comprises the representation of the Most Holy Trinity.
The image of the Mystic Lamb is inspired by the Apocalypse. In the Revelation of Saint John, the seven candelabra allude to the seven Christian churches, to which seven letters are sent to exhort them to convert (Rev. 1, 12). The lamb, who is the Redeemer, “sacrificed”, but alive and victorious, opens the seven seals of the book in the form of a scroll so that the Almighty may reign. Before the Lamb, the four creatures, the lion, the calf, the man and the eagle, all with wings, adopted as the symbols of the Evangelists, fall down and and sing songs of glory, together with the twenty-four elders and hosts of angels (Rev. 5). Then the “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” of angels are joined by “every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them”, saying, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Rev. 5, 13)'.