Nov 23, 2012

The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi

c. 1740

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

(Italian, 1696-1770)

Pen and brown ink and brush and brown wash, over black chalk

Support: Cream(1) laid paper

Sheet: 38.7 x 28.5 cm (15 1/4 x 11 1/4 in.)

Dudley P. Allen Fund 1944.474



According to the Gospel of Matthew, three Magi, guided by a star, found the newborn Jesus and laid gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh before him. Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Tiepolo’s drawing of the traditional subject places the Madonna on a platform as she holds the Christ child out toward three approaching magi. Two bearded white magi kneel in supplication as the turbaned black magi stands behind them. Tiepolo plays with the conventions of the Adoration subject by employing an asymmetrical composition. Working over his black chalk underdrawing, traces of which are visible in the figures’ robes, the artist delineated the scene with brown ink, quill pen, and brush before modeling with brown wash. Tiepolo’s mastery over value is evident in his contrasts of dark shadow with light midtones and the luminous white of his paper, producing his celebrated effects of glistening sunlight and clear atmosphere. The broken wheel in the foreground, an attribute of Saint Catherine, also appears in Tiepolo's etching of the same subject (1965.18) to which this drawing may be related.

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