Botticelli's Madonna of the Eucharist, which can be found in Boston at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, shows the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. Next to her, St John the Baptist is holding stalks of grain and a bunch of grapes. Mary is shown reaching into the bundle and pulling out a stalk of grain. Christ is reaching out to bless the whole bundle. It is common to see Christ holding up his right hand to bless a meal. The inclusion of the grain and the grapes is symbolic of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The grain represents the body of Christ and the grapes represent his blood, just as he used them as representations of himself during The Last Supper. Botticelli uses them here as foreshadowing of what is to come. This painting shows the combination of trends that formed the style of Botticelli's painting.
Botticelli's Madonna of the Eucharist is characteristic of many other Madonna and Child paintings.
In many other renditions St. John the Baptist is shown alongside the Virgin and Christ. Here he is shown having very feminine features. This is not uncommon, as it can be seen in a number of other paintings. An example of this is another or Botticelli's paintings, which can be seen in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts. This painting is titled Virgin and Child and Saint John the Baptist. We know from the title that John the Baptist is the third figure in the work, however when looking at him one might think he is another woman.
John Canaday, author of The Lives of the Painters, argues that Botticelli was greatly influenced by the work of Masaccio, who was himself influenced greatly by the growing popularity of humanism (99). As stated in The New Century Italian Renaissance...