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Adoration of the Magi (Ospedale degli Innocenti)

Adoration of the Magi (Ospedale degli Innocenti)

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The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo.-Early years:Ghirlandaio's full name is given as Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi...

, executed around 1485-1488 and housed in the Ospedale degli Innocenti
Ospedale degli Innocenti
The Ospedale degli Innocenti is a historical building in Florence, central Italy. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who received the commission in 1419, it was originally a children's orphanage. It is regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture...

 gallery in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Italy. The predella, painted by Bartolomeo di Giovanni, is in the same site.

History


On 28 October 1485 Francesco di Giovanni Tesori, prior of the Ospedale degli Innocenti
Ospedale degli Innocenti
The Ospedale degli Innocenti is a historical building in Florence, central Italy. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who received the commission in 1419, it was originally a children's orphanage. It is regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture...

, Florence's orphanage, signed with Domenico Ghirlandaio a detailed contract regarding the commission of an altarpiece for the high altar of the annexed church of Santa Maria degli Innocenti. The subject chosen was the Adoration of the Magi, a common theme in the 15th century Florentine art. The contract specified that the master himself had to paint it (to avoid the frequent use he made of his workshop), according to a drawing approved by the commissioner and using precious colors. The work should be completed within thirty months, in reward of 115 florins.

The original frame, commissioned in 1486 to Antonio di Francesco di Bartolo after a design by Giuliano da Sangallo, was destroyed in 1786, wen the interior of the church was renewed and the altarpiece removed. It was moved to the hospital's art gallery in 1917, being joined by the original predella (which had been separated in 1615) in 1971.

Description


This scene of the Adoration of the Magi expands upon earlier innovations by Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance...

 Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi of 1475 (Botticelli)
The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, dating from 1475 or 1476. It is housed in the Uffizi of Florence.The Adoration of the Magi theme was popular in the Renaissance Florence...

 
of Santa Maria Novella (c. 1475) and Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi (1481-1482). The Madonna occupies a central position inside a pyramidal composition. The Child is held up to be seen by the Magi and the other spectators. Two two Magi are positioned at the base of the composition, one kisses the child's foot, and another is kneels with his hand on his chest. A third Magus stands on the left, wearing a yellow and red cloak, gifting a richly decorated chalice. According to the tradition, they represent three different ages of man: youth, maturity and old age. At their sides, crouched, are St. John the Baptist, who looks at the seers and (in keeping with the contemporary theme) points to the Child; and St. John the Evangelist, who is presenting a wounded child. Another child, in a hint to the orphans (innocenti) cared by the Hospital, is at the opposite end. They are also referred to by the scene of the Massacre of the Innocents
Massacre of the Innocents
The Massacre of the Innocents is an episode of infanticide by the King of Judea, Herod the Great. According to the Gospel of Matthew Herod orders the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth...

 represented in the left background.

The traditional ox and donkey surround the Virgin, together with St. Joseph. The hut includes an unfinished brick wall, a symbol of the decline of paganism, to be replaced by Christianism. The ceiling is supported by four columns decorated with candelabra and gilt Corinthian capitals. Above it, four angels hold a cartouche with a tetragram
Tetragram
The word tetragram describes any word that is exactly four letters long.Tetragram can also refer to:*the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew name for God, sometimes written as YHWH *a Tai Xuan Jing symbol with four lines...

 with the notes and the first words of the Gloria.

Ghirlandaio painted in the left foreground a series of characters, among which are the donor (dressing in black), and the artist himself, who looks towards the seer. On the right, in the Magi procession, are three richly donned men, which have been identified as major members of the Art della Seta (Guild of the Silk Workers), that was the main financial backer of the Hospital. Above them the procession continues in the far background, passing under an arch (with the date, MCCCCLXXXVIII, or 1488) another possible symbol of the fall of the transition between paganism and Christianism. The five horses were painted starting from only two cartoons, adding some small variants in the heads. The same sector of the background depicts the annunciation to the shepherds by a flying angel. Finally, painted above a lake landscape with ships among hills and mountains, a layman and a clerk observe the scene: they symbolize the main institutions backing the orphanage.

The city in the left background is a symbolic representation of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

: edifices include the Colosseum
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

, the Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near...

, the Torre delle Milizie
Torre delle Milizie
The Torre delle Milizie is a tower in Rome, Italy, annexed to the Trajan's Market in the Imperial fora.One of the main medieval monuments of the city, the tower is on a square plan, its base sides measure 10.5 x 9.5 m, and it currently stands at almost 50 meters...

 and the Pyramid of Cestius
Pyramid of Cestius
The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient pyramid in Rome, Italy, near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery. It stands at a fork between two ancient roads, the Via Ostiensis and another road that ran west to the Tiber along the approximate line of the modern Via della Marmorata...

.

Predella


The predella, painted by Bartolomeo di Giovanni, includes episodes of the lives of the saints and of the Virgin. They are, from left:
  • Martyrdom of St. John the Evangelist
  • Annunciation
  • Marriage of the Virgin
  • Presentation in the Temple and Circumcision of Jesus
  • Deposition from the Cross
  • Baptism of Christ
  • Saint Antoninus Consecrating the church of Santa Maria degli Innocenti