Jan 12, 2007

The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi


Giovanni di Paolo

(Italian, c. 1403–1482)

Tempera and gold on wood panel

Framed: 52.5 x 59 x 7.5 cm (20 11/16 x 23 1/4 x 2 15/16 in.); Unframed: 38.4 x 44.3 cm (15 1/8 x 17 7/16 in.)

Delia E. Holden and L. E. Holden Funds 1942.536


According to the Gospel of Matthew, three Magi, guided by a star, found the newborn Christ and laid gifts before him. Artists throughout the 15th century elaborated considerably upon this biblical account, devoting particular attention to the Magi’s entourage, which gave them an opportunity to depict the splendor of contemporary aristocratic life. Here, the Magi solemnly honor the divine child in the Virgin’s arms, while their bustling retinue of courtiers and animals provides an exuberant visual diversion. Di Paolo was one of the leading painters in 15th-century Siena, noted both for his manuscript illuminations and painted panels supplied to the city’s churches.

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