Adoration of the Magi - Pietro Lorenzetti
Gifts of Art | Kipling de Freitas

Adoration of the Magi - Pietro Lorenzetti

Regular price $ 50.00 $ 0.00

Stretched (Framed ¾”) Canvas Giclée Prints
12 x 10 inches: $50.00
16 x 12 inches: $60.00
20 x 16 inches: $80.00

24 x 18 inches: $95.00
30 x 24 inches $130.00
36 x 36 inches $190.00

The original work as done by Lorenzetti measures approximately 13 x 10 inches. The above sizes are selected to maintain the proportions of that original but other sizes are available on request. FREE SHIPPING IN U.S

The Adoration of the Magi by Pietro Lorenzetti is one of the earliest art paintings that tells this momentous symbolic story. In medieval times, the account of the visit by the three to the baby Jesus was a familiar one. And as Robin Jensen  in Witnessing the Divine (2001) informs us: ‘In art, the adoration of the magi appeared earlier and far more frequently than any other scene of Jesus’ birth and infancy, including images of the babe in a manger. The artistic evidence suggests that the early church attributed great theological importance to the story of Jesus’ first visitors…’

In Lorenzetti’s portrayal, the three Magi paying homage to the baby Jesus are depicted as kings. They wear crowns. This is in line with the prophecy of Psalm 72: 10 – 11:

gifts shall flow in from the lords of Tharsis and the islanders, tribute from the kings of Arabia and of Saba; all kings must needs bring their homage, all nations serve him. (Translation from New Advent)

The Star of Bethlehem is shown as a small magical orb hovering above the red tiled roof. The Madonna and Child rest under a marquee set before a cave giving us a scene that is very unlike the Biblical account in Luke 2: 1 - 7:

It happened that a decree went out at this time from the emperor Augustus, enjoining that the whole world should be registered; this register was the first one made during the time when Cyrinus was governor of Syria. All must go and give in their names, each in his own city; and Joseph, being of David’s clan and family, came up from the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, to David’s city in Judaea, the city called Bethlehem, to give in his name there. With him was his espoused wife Mary, who was then in her pregnancy; and it was while they were still there that the time came for her delivery. She brought forth a son, her first-born, whom she wrapped in his swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.’

The way in which the term manger is used in that narrative suggests it is an alternative to a regular room in an inn. And this interpretation is supported by a reading of the Greek text used for the English version translations. The term employed therein is kataluma which may simply mean a room. Most likely then, Joseph and Mary were assigned to a room but a room that usually served some other purpose, perhaps storage. But it is equally likely that that room could have been a large covered more public area or courtyard adjoining the inn. Then it would not be unusual that horses or asses might be present. Expecting this, the proprietor may have provided feeding troughs or mangers for the animals. One of these would, closely, resemble a crib and be a very convenient place to lay the swaddled infant. As time passed, this nativity picture was, no doubt, dominated by the image of Jesus lying in a manger. And the inference arose that the manger was an item of furniture in a stable.

But there was another compelling reason to place the nativity scene in a stable with the baby Jesus lying in a manger. That version emphasized his lowly birth and humility. It identified him as one of the poor and downtrodden. He had come to represent the masses. He would be a strange thing: both a king and a democrat. Such an idea at this time is startling. Two millennium ago, it would have been revolutionary.

The Magi are usually regarded as three in number. But the only evidence for this seems to be that three gifts are mentioned: frankincense, gold and myrrh. Matthew is silent on the matter. In art, their number has varied from two to twelve. As three, their names are given as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar (or Casper).

The earliest portrayal of the Magi can be found in the Catacombs of Priscilla. It is a fresco above an arch in a section of the Catacombs known as the Capella Graeca. These catacombs were dug out over a period of three hundred years from the second to the fifth centuries. They take their name from a Roman Christian lady of the noble family Acilius Glabrio who granted the Church use of the property. The fresco in the Catacombs shows, on the left, three Magi in a line approaching the Virgin and Child. It has been dated to the mid-third century CE. Another fresco in the Catacombs of Saint Domitilla shows four Magi. These catacombs were constructed in land donated by the Lady Flavia Domitilla whose tragic history deserves mention.

The Lady Flavia was a member of the Imperial family. She was the granddaughter of Vespasian and the niece of Domitian and it appears that her children were informally adopted by Domitian. This, of course, for a male child, could be a precursor to succeeding to the Imperium. But Flavia and her husband, Flavius Clemente, were later accused of ‘atheism’ which probably meant they had converted to Christianity. He was put to death; she was banished to the island of Ventotene in the Tyrrhenian Sea... Yet another fresco in the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter has only two Magi. But, yet again, still, the literature of the Eastern Church speaks of twelve.

The creator of this work, Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1280 – c. 1348) lived and worked in Siena. He was greatly influenced by Duccio di Buoninsegna. He worked on a number of altarpieces and church frescoes and this Adoration of the Magi, which survives in its original frame, may have formed part of a portable altar. Another part of that same altar was the Presentation at the Temple now housed in the Mimara Museum in Zagreb, Croatia. Pietro and his brother Ambrogio embraced two important new trends in painting and gave expression to them in their art. The first of these was naturalism. The stylized figures of religious personages were taking on a more human appearance. Before, they had been icons far removed from the earthly sphere. Now their humanity was emerging and could be seen in the folds of their garments suggesting the body form beneath and the facial expressions that revealed the spirit within.

The other great trend that is increasingly explored and developed in the Italian Gothic works of Cimabue, Gentile da Fabriano, Duccio, Giotto and the Lorenzettis, is perspective. These artists went on to master a variety of techniques that transformed their surfaces of two dimensions into extensions or windows of the real world. These two great developments would mature in the coming Renaissance.

Title: Adorazione dei Magi (Adoration of the Magi, circa 1340)
Artist: Pietro Lorenzetti (1280 – 1348)
Framework: Tempera on wood panel
Dimensions: Height: 33 cm (12.99 in.), Width: 24 cm (9.45 in.)
Location: Musée du Louvre, Paris, France