Adoration of the Magi

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Gerard David, Adoration of the Kings, National Gallery, London, 1515-1523 Gerard David - Adoration of the Kings - Google Art Project.jpg
Gerard David, Adoration of the Kings , National Gallery, London, 1515–1523
Adoration of the Magi, Gentile da Fabriano, 1423 Gentile da fabriano, adorazione dei magi.jpg
Adoration of the Magi, Gentile da Fabriano, 1423

The Adoration of the Magi or Adoration of the Kings is the name traditionally given to the subject in the Nativity of Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star, lay before him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. It is related in the Bible by Matthew 2:11: "On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path".

Nativity of Jesus in art artistic depictions of the Nativity or birth of Jesus, celebrated at Christmas

The Nativity of Jesus has been a major subject of Christian art since the 4th century.

Biblical Magi group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth

The biblical Magi, also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men or (Three) Kings, were – in the Gospel of Matthew and Christian tradition – distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of Christian tradition.

Star of Bethlehem celestial phenomenon that according to the New Testament revealed the birth of Jesus to the Wise Men

The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, appears only in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where "wise men from the East" (Magi) are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We have come to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews." Herod calls his scribes and priests who quote to him that a verse from the Book of Micah interpreted as a prophecy, states that the Jewish Messiah would be born in Bethlehem to the south of Jerusalem. Secretly intending to find and kill the Messiah in order to preserve his own kingship, Herod invites the wise men to return to him on their way home.

Contents

Christian iconography has considerably expanded the bare account of the Biblical Magi given in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew (2:122) and used it to press the point that Jesus was recognized, from his earliest infancy, as king of the earth. The scene was often used to represent the Nativity, one of the most indispensable episodes in cycles of the Life of the Virgin as well as the Life of Christ .

Iconography Branch of art history

Iconography, as a branch of art history, studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images: the subjects depicted, the particular compositions and details used to do so, and other elements that are distinct from artistic style. The word iconography comes from the Greek εἰκών ("image") and γράφειν.

Gospel of Matthew Books of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells how the promised Messiah, Jesus, rejected by Israel, is killed, is raised from the dead, and finally sends the disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world. Most scholars believe it was composed between AD 80 and 90, with a range of possibility between AD 70 to 110. The anonymous author was probably a male Jew, standing on the margin between traditional and non-traditional Jewish values, and familiar with technical legal aspects of scripture being debated in his time. Writing in a polished Semitic "synagogue Greek", he drew on three main sources: the Gospel of Mark, the hypothetical collection of sayings known as the Q source, and material unique to his own community, called the M source or "Special Matthew".

Matthew 2:1

Matthew 2:1 is the first verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The previous verse ends with Jesus being named by his father; this verse marks the clear start of a new narrative. This verse deals with the arrival of the magi at the court of Herod the Great in Jerusalem. This story of the magi continues until Matthew 2:12.

In the church calendar, the event is commemorated in Western Christianity as the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6). The Orthodox Church commemorates the Adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the Nativity (December 25). The term is anglicized from the Vulgate Latin section title for this passage: A Magis adoratur.

Western Christianity is a religious category composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians. The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.

Christmas holiday originating in Christianity, usually celebrated on December 25 (in the Gregorian or Julian calendars)

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ observed on December 25. as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

Vulgate Latin translation of the Bible

The Vulgate is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible that became the Catholic Church's officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible during the 16th century. The translation was largely the work of Jerome, who in 382 had been commissioned by Pope Damasus I to revise the Vetus Latina Gospels then in use by the Roman Church. Jerome, on his own initiative, extended this work of revision and translation to include most of the books of the Bible, and once published, the new version was widely adopted and eventually eclipsed the Vetus Latina; so that by the 13th century, it had taken over from the former version the appellation of versio vulgata or vulgata for short, and in Greek as βουλγάτα ("Voulgata").

History of the depiction

Adoration of the Child Jesus by the three wise men or Magi; Sarcophagus relief (4th century.), Vatican Adoration magi Pio Christiano Inv31459.jpg
Adoration of the Child Jesus by the three wise men or Magi; Sarcophagus relief (4th century.), Vatican
Adoration by Jan Gossaert, c. 1510 Jan Gossaert 001.jpg
Adoration by Jan Gossaert, c. 1510
Adoration of the Magi after Hieronymus Bosch After Hieronymus Bosch - Adoration of the Magi - Petworth House.jpg
Adoration of the Magi after Hieronymus Bosch
Dirk Bouts, 15th century Dieric Bouts 004.jpg
Dirk Bouts, 15th century

In the earliest depictions, the Magi are shown wearing Persian dress of trousers and Phrygian caps, usually in profile, advancing in step with their gifts held out before them. These images adapt Late Antique poses for barbarians submitting to an Emperor, and presenting golden wreaths, and indeed relate to images of tribute-bearers from various Mediterranean and ancient Near Eastern cultures going back many centuries. The earliest are from catacomb paintings and sarcophagus reliefs of the 4th century. Crowns are first seen in the 10th century, mostly in the West, where their dress had by that time lost any Oriental flavour in most cases. [1] The standard Byzantine depiction of the Nativity included the journey or arrival of the mounted Magi in the background, but not them presenting their gifts, until the post-Byzantine period, when the western depiction was often adapted to an icon style. Later Byzantine images often show small pill-box like hats, whose significance is disputed.

Phrygian cap soft conical cap with the top pulled forward

The Phrygian cap or liberty cap is a soft conical cap with the apex bent over, associated in antiquity with several peoples in Eastern Europe and Anatolia, including Phrygia, Dacia, and the Balkans. In early modern Europe it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty through a confusion with the pileus, the felt cap of manumitted (emancipated) slaves of ancient Rome. In artistic representations it signifies freedom and the pursuit of liberty.

Tribute wealth that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or of submission or allegiance

A tribute (/ˈtrɪbjuːt/) is wealth, often in kind, that a party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Various ancient states exacted tribute from the rulers of land which the state conquered or otherwise threatened to conquer. In case of alliances, lesser parties may pay tribute to more powerful parties as a sign of allegiance and often in order to finance projects that would benefit both parties. To be called "tribute" a recognition by the payer of political submission to the payee is normally required; the large sums, essentially protection money, paid by the later Roman and Byzantine Empires to barbarian peoples to prevent them attacking imperial territory, would not usually be termed "tribute" as the Empire accepted no inferior political position. Payments by a superior political entity to an inferior one, made for various purposes, are described by terms including "subsidy".

Sarcophagus Box-like funeral receptacle

A sarcophagus is a box-like funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved in stone, and usually displayed above ground, though it may also be buried. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σάρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγεῖν phagein meaning "to eat"; hence sarcophagus means "flesh-eating", from the phrase lithos sarkophagos, "flesh-eating stone". The word also came to refer to a particular kind of limestone that was thought to rapidly facilitate the decomposition of the flesh of corpses contained within it due to the chemical properties of the limestone itself.

The Magi are usually shown as the same age until about this period, but then the idea of depicting the three ages of man is introduced: a particularly beautiful example is seen on the façade of the cathedral of Orvieto. Occasionally from the 12th century, and very often in Northern Europe from the 15th, the Magi are also made to represent the three known parts of the world: Balthasar is very commonly cast as a young African or Moor, and old Caspar is given Oriental features or, more often, dress. Melchior represents Europe and middle age. From the 14th century onward, large retinues are often shown, the gifts are contained in spectacular pieces of goldsmith work, and the Magi's clothes are given increasing attention. [1] By the 15th century, the Adoration of the Magi is often a bravura piece in which the artist can display their handling of complex, crowded scenes involving horses and camels, but also their rendering of varied textures: the silk, fur, jewels and gold of the Kings set against the wood of the stable, the straw of Jesus's manger and the rough clothing of Joseph and the shepherds.

Orvieto Cathedral Roman Catholic Cathedral in Orvieto

Orvieto Cathedral is a large 14th-century Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and situated in the town of Orvieto in Umbria, central Italy. Since 1986, the cathedral in Orvieto has been the episcopal seat of the former Diocese of Todi as well.

Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age.

Goldsmith metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals

A goldsmith is a metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals. Historically, goldsmiths also have made silverware, platters, goblets, decorative and serviceable utensils, ceremonial or religious items, and rarely using Kintsugi, but the rising prices of precious metals have curtailed the making of such items to a large degree.

The scene often includes a fair diversity of animals as well: the ox and ass from the Nativity scene are usually there, but also the horses, camels, dogs, and falcons of the kings and their retinue, and sometimes other animals, such as birds in the rafters of the stable. From the 15th century onwards, the Adoration of the Magi is quite often conflated with the Adoration of the Shepherds from the account in the Gospel of Luke (2:8–20), an opportunity to bring in yet more human and animal diversity; in some compositions (triptychs for example), the two scenes are contrasted or set as pendants to the central scene, usually a Nativity.

Nativity scene representation of the birth of Christ

In the Christian tradition, a nativity scene (also known as a manger scene, crib, crèche is the special exhibition, particularly during the Christmas season, of art objects representing the birth of Jesus. While the term "nativity scene" may be used of any representation of the very common subject of the Nativity of Jesus in art, it has a more specialized sense referring to seasonal displays, either using model figures in a setting or reenactments called "living nativity scenes" in which real humans and animals participate. Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph.

Adoration of the Shepherds part of the nativity story and common subject in Christian art

The Adoration of the Shepherds, in the Nativity of Jesus in art, is a scene in which shepherds are near witnesses to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, arriving soon after the actual birth. It is often combined in art with the Adoration of the Magi, in which case it is typically just referred to by the latter title. The Annunciation to the Shepherds, when they are summoned by an angel to the scene, is a distinct subject.

Gospel of Luke Books of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Luke, also called the Gospel of Luke, or simply Luke, is the third of the four canonical Gospels. It tells of the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

The "adoration" of the Magi at the crib is the usual subject, but their arrival, called the "Procession of the Magi", is often shown in the distant background of a Nativity scene (usual in Byzantine icons), or as a separate subject, for example in the Magi Chapel frescos by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. Other subjects include the Journey of the Magi, where they and perhaps their retinue are the only figures, usually shown following the Star of Bethlehem, and there are relatively uncommon scenes of their meeting with Herod and the Dream of the Magi .

The usefulness of the subject to the Church and the technical challenges involved in representing it have made the Adoration of the Magi a favorite subject of Christian art: chiefly painting, but also sculpture and even music (as in Gian-Carlo Menotti's opera Amahl and the Night Visitors ). The subject matter is also found in stained glass. The first figural stained glass window made in the United States is the "Adoration of the Magi" window located at Christ Church, Pelham, New York and designed in 1843 by the founder and first rector's son, William Jay Bolton.

Treatments by individual artists

Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, 15th century. Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, The Adoration of the Magi.jpg
Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, 15th century.

Many hundreds of artists have treated the subject. A partial list of those with articles follows.

See also

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Sandro Botticelli 15th and 16th-century Italian Renaissance painter

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Filippino Lippi Italian painter

Filippino Lippi was an Italian painter working in Florence, Italy during the later years of the Early Renaissance and first few years of the High Renaissance.

Filippo Lippi 15th-century Italian Renaissance painter

Fra' Filippo Lippi, O.Carm., also called Lippo Lippi, was an Italian painter of the Quattrocento.

<i>Adoration of the Magi</i> (Leonardo) painting by Leonardo da Vinci

The Adoration of the Magi is an early painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was given the commission by the Augustinian monks of San Donato in Scopeto in Florence, but he departed for Milan the following year, leaving the painting unfinished. It has been in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence since 1670.

Portinari Altarpiece painting by Hugo van der Goes

The Portinari Altarpiece or Portinari Triptych is an oil on wood triptych painting by the Flemish painter Hugo van der Goes representing the Adoration of the Shepherds. It measures 253 x 304 cm, and is now in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy.

<i>The Mystical Nativity</i> painting by Sandro Botticelli

The Mystical Nativity is a painting of circa 1500–1501 by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, in the National Gallery in London. Botticelli built up the image using oil on canvas. It is his only signed work, and has an unusual iconography for a Nativity.

<i>Adoration of the Magi</i> (Mantegna) painting by Andrea Mantegna

The Adoration of the Magi or Uffizi Triptych is a group of three tempera-on-panel paintings by Andrea Mantegna, dating to around 1460. Their three subjects are the Ascension of Christ, Adoration of the Magi the largest and central panel and the Circumcision of Christ. They were gathered as a trio in the 19th century, although some art historians doubt that they were created as a triptych set in the way they are now arranged. They are now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

<i>Adoration of the Magi</i> (Botticelli, 1475) painting by Botticelli, Uffizi

The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, dating from 1475 or 1476, early in his career. The work is on display at the Uffizi in Florence. Botticelli was commissioned to paint at least seven versions of The Adoration of the Magi. This version was commissioned by Gaspare di Zanobi del Lama for his funerary chapel in Santa Maria Novella.

Magi Chapel chapel with wallpaintings by Benozzo Gozzoli

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Life of Christ in art Artistic theme

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<i>Star of Bethlehem</i> (painting) painting by Edward Burne-Jones

The Star of Bethlehem is a painting in watercolour by Sir Edward Burne-Jones depicting the Adoration of the Magi with an angel holding the star of Bethlehem. It was commissioned by the Corporation of the City of Birmingham for its new Museum and Art Gallery in 1887, two years after Burne-Jones was elected Honorary President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. At 101 1/8 x 152 inches, The Star of Bethlehem was the largest watercolour of the 19th century. It was completed in 1890 and was first exhibited in 1891.

Annunciation to the shepherds part of the Christmas story of Jesuss nativity

The annunciation to the shepherds is an episode in the Nativity of Jesus described in the Bible in Luke 2, in which angels tell a group of shepherds about the birth of Jesus. It is a common subject of Christian art and of Christmas carols.

Master of the Prado Adoration of the Magi Early Netherlandish painter, possibly the same person as Hans Memling

The Master of the Prado Adoration of the Magi was a Netherlandish painter active between c. 1475 – 1500 whose identity is now lost. He is thought to have originated from the southern Netherlands and is known for his vibrant colourisation in panels depicting scenes from the infancy of Christ, he is thought to have been a pupil of Rogier van der Weyden, and is named after a copy of the "Adoration of the Magi" panel from that painter's St Columba Altarpiece. Although the Magi became a popular topic for northern painters in the second half of the 15th century and the Columba altarpiece was widely copied, the master is associated with van der Weyden's workshop because the copy is so close, it is believed he must have had access to a reproduction of the underdrawing.

<i>Adoration of the Magi</i> (Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi) painting by Fra Angelico en Filippo Lippi

The Adoration of the Magi is a tondo, or circular painting, of the Adoration of the Magi assumed to be that recorded in 1492 in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence as by Fra Angelico. It dates from the mid-15th century and is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Most art historians think that Filippo Lippi painted more of the original work, and that it was added to some years after by other artists, as well as including work by assistants in the workshops of both the original masters. It has been known as the Washington Tondo and Cook Tondo after a former owner, and this latter name in particular continues to be used over 50 years after the painting left the Cook collection.

<i>Adoration of the Kings</i> (David, London) painting by Gerard David

The Adoration of the Kings by the Early Netherlandish painter Gerard David is a painting in oil on panel, probably from after 1515, now in the National Gallery in London. The painted surface measures some 60 by 59.2 centimetres, and the panel is about 2 centimetres (0.79 in) larger in both dimensions. The panel comes from a dismantled altarpiece from which one other panel appears to survive, the Lamentation that is also in the National Gallery.

References

  1. 1 2 Schiller, Gertrud; Seligman, Janet (1971). Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I: Christ's incarnation, childhood, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, works and miracles, (English translation from German), pp. 100–114 and figs. 245–298. London: Lund Humphries. OCLC   59999963
Adoration of the Wise Men
Life of Jesus: The Nativity
Preceded by
Star of Bethlehem
    New Testament    
Events
Followed by
Flight into Egypt