Adoration of the Magi - Gentile da Fabriano
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Adoration of the Magi - Gentile da Fabriano

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Stretched (Framed ¾”) Canvas Giclée Prints
12 x 16 inches:   $60.00
16 x 24 inches:   $90.00
20 x 30 inches: $115.00

24 x 32 inches: $135.00
30 x 40 inches  $180.00
36 x 48 inches  $235.00

Non-Stretched 2” (No Frame) Canvas Giclée Print
40 x 60 inches $215.00
44 x 66 inches $250.00

Original measures 80 x 111 inches. Sizes selected to maintain proportions of the original but other sizes are available on request. FREE SHIPPING IN U.S.

The Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano is one of many art paintings devoted to this significant event. The source of the story is the gospel of Matthew. But there is something similar in Luke who writes of shepherds visiting the baby Jesus. Both stories foretell the paramountcy of the new coming religion above all others. The shepherds, being local lads, represent Jewish acceptance of the Messiah. And the Magi, most obviously foreign, symbolize the rest of the world. The Magi have been depicted as of Persian origin. A fifth-century panel from the wooden doors of Santa Sabina in Rome shows them wearing Phrygian headgear typical of the priests of the Persian god Mithras. Mithras, of course, is associated with Zoroastrianism. And a prophecy in that ancient religion ‘asserted that a star would appear to announce the virgin birth of the Messiah.’ (See Dawson William Carr, Andrea Mantegna: The Adoration of the Magi (1997) at 52)

The adoration or worship of the Magi has been termed an epiphany, after the Greek term for the appearance of an apparition, since it is the first indication of Jesus’ divinity. Traditionally, it has been celebrated on January 6th by the Feast of the Epiphany. On that same date, January 6th, two other epiphanies are celebrated: the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, alighting on Jesus as he is baptized by John and his turning water into wine at the marriage ceremony in Cana.

The work was commissioned by Palla Strozzi who was a rather interesting character. He ran the family-owned Strozzi bank but, at one time, served as the city of Florence’s chief ambassador. As Patricia Lee Rubin in Images and Identity in Fifteenth-century Florence (2007) tell us, the painting was meant ‘for the family burial chapel and sacristy at Santa Trinita.’ The work is extravagantly and expensively decorated (Palla complains in a letter dated March 1422 of the expense). ‘There is gold pastiglia on the crowns, spurs, swords, and other trappings of the kings and their entourage, an eye-catching and light-catching device that would make the altarpiece shimmer when lit by candles. The three kings are depicted as dressed in brocades and velvets, which are literally made of gold and silver. The patterns on these cloths were made by applying paint over metal leaf, which was then scraped away to make the designs. Punch-work, scratched patterns, and mordant gilding add further to the glittering impression of the cavalcade.’

Palla and his son Lorenzo stand behind the three kings. Palla, with beard, is shown as a falconer (strozziere), an allusion to the family name. The inclusion of the page removing the young king’s spurs serves two purposes: first, it is a gesture of obeisance and, second, it is a reference to Palla’s knighthood by the King of Naples in 1415. The privilege of wearing spurs was accorded only to knights. The Strozzi device (a crescent moon) is shown on the bridle of the white horse.

Robert Baldwin in Gentile da Fabriano: International Style and Court Culture (2007) provides some background to Strozzi and his commission.
‘Palla Strozzi was a leading member of the exclusive Order of the Golden Spur, the first chivalric order established by the papacy and limited to one hundred knights selected according to merit, not blood… Like most wealthy merchant families, the Strozzi purchased a private chapel in their parish church, S. Trinita, as a site for burial and family commemoration. The dilapidated church was part of a monastic complex of the Vallombrosan Order. In 1383, the monks successfully petitioned the city council for public funds to rebuild the church. The local families who funded this project received rights to private chapels lining the nave and transept. In exchange for funding the rebuilding of the attached hospital, Palla Strozzi’s father received rights to build a private chapel in the sacristy and endowed it with private masses as was customary. The chapel itself was finished by 1405. After Palla’s father died in 1418, he took over the project by financing a large, Late Gothic marble tomb monument to his father (executed by Ghiberti), an elaborate Gothic marble doorway, and wood pews decorated with intarsia (complex wood inlay). In 1420, he imported the Northern Italian court painter, Gentile da Fabriano, to paint a large altarpiece for the hospital chapel. At that time, Gentile was the leading local practitioner of the highly ornate, Late Gothic style popular throughout the European courts. Even after he was exiled, Palla Strozzi continued to invest in the decoration of his chapel by hiring Fra Angelico to paint another altarpiece for S. Trinita.’

By the end of the Middle Ages, the three Magi were identified as kings. But as early as the third century, Tertullian (155/160 – 220) had cited the authority of Psalms 72:10 in support of such a proposition:

The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents; the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him.

The Three Magi also came to represent the three ages of man: youth, middle age, and old age. The blond Magus whose spur is being removed represents youth, the one with right arm raised represents middle age, and old age is depicted by the kneeling bearded one.

Title: Adorazione dei Magi (Adoration of the Magi, 1423)
Artist: Gentile da Fabriano, born Niccolò di Giovanni di Massio (1370 – 1427)
Framework: Tempera on wood panel
Dimensions: 300 x 282 cm (overall including frame); 173 x 288 (central panel only)
Location: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy