THE CHRISTMAS CANVAS: ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ by Gentile da Fabriano (1423)

From the magnificence of the Medici we move to the splendour of the Strozzi; both illustrious bankers of Florence. The Florentine Republic was a medieval and early modern state. It had no kings rather it was ruled by a wealthy class of merchants and the guilds. Their enormous accumulation of wealth soon disappeared in art. The ‘Adoration of the Magi’ by Gentile da Fabriano spells one such accumulation through its extravagant opulence.

The subject is that of the famous Three Kings. Bearing gifts they traversed through distant lands inorder to honour and adore the newly born Christ Child. Their adventure begins in the background. Very inventively the artist characterizes their journey as a continuous narrative through the gilded Gothic arches. 

The first scene decorating the first arch depicts the discovery of the bright star in the East. The brightness of the star illuminated their hearts as they set out for Jerusalem. This is illustrated in the second scene. However there they encounter the villain! Herod, the paranoid and treacherous king, asked them to report back once they find the Messiah. From there the Magi lead their retinue to the small town of Bethlehem as displayed at the upper right corner.

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