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The Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli

The Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli
  • Original Title: L'Adorazione dei Magi
  • Date: 1475 - 1476
  • Style: Early Renaissance
  • Genre: religious painting
  • Media: tempera
  • Tag: Christianity, Virgin-and-Child
  • Dimensions: 134 x 111 cm
  • Order Oil Painting

The Adoration of the Magi was a common theme in Renaissance Florentine art. This painting was commissioned by a banker connected to the house of Medici, Gaspare di Zanobi del Lama, for a chapel at the Santa Maria Novella church, which has since been destroyed. Botticelli painted many members of the Medici family into the scene, including del Lama himself, Cosimo de Medici, Piero and Giovanni Medici (Cosimo’s sons), and Giuliano and Lorenzo (Cosimo’s grandsons). Although the four eldest of the Medicis were already deceased when Botticelli painted this piece, Lorenzo effectively ruled Florence. Botticelli also included a portrait of himself, in the yellow robe in the bottom right corner of the painting.

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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.

In the scene numerous characters are present, among which are several members of the Medici family: Cosimo de' Medici (the Magus kneeling in front of the Virgin, described by Vasari as "the finest of all that are now extant for its life and vigour"), his sons Piero (the second Magus kneeling in the centre with the red mantle) and Giovanni (the third Magus), and his grandsons Giuliano and Lorenzo. The three Medici portrayed as Magi were all dead at the time the picture was painted, and Florence was effectively ruled by Lorenzo.

Whether Botticelli's intimate relations with the Medici brothers allowed the wealthy Gaspare to introduce the portraits of their kinsmen in his altar-piece, or Gaspare was glad for this opportunity to pay a graceful compliment to these powerful personages is hard to tell. It is, however, apparent from the great pains in which Botticelli bestowed on these figures, that this formed an important part of the task.

Also Gaspare himself is said to be included in the painting, as the old man on the right with white hair and a light blue robe looking and pointing at the observer. Furthermore, also Botticelli is alleged to have made a self-portrait as the blonde man with yellow mantle on the far right.

In his Lives, Vasari describes the Adoration in the following way:

The attention to details, such as the garments rendering, show the acquisition by the Florentine artist of the influences from the Flemish school at this point of his career.

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