Adorable Nativities (Favorites from Washington’s National Gallery, 7)

After I’ve spent time looking at medieval art, this Italian Adoration of the Magi of the mid-15th century always makes me smile. Peacocks! Arches! Parades! Linear perspective! Lavish costumes and almost-naked men! There’s delight in literally every inch. I’ll need to stand and squint at the details when I see it next.

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, c. 1395 - 1455 ), The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1440/1460, tempera on panel. Washington, National Gallery, Samuel H. Kress Collection. Photo: National Gallery

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, c. 1395 – 1455 ), The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1440/1460, tempera on panel. Washington, National Gallery, Samuel H. Kress Collection. Photo: National Gallery

On the other hand …

Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi was painted twenty (or as many as forty) years later. The colors are similar. But the composition is radically different: between the painting above and this one, Leonardo had sketched out an Adoration organized by geometric forms, and composition was never the same. It would take too long to explain why: you’ll have to wait for Innovators in Painting.

Sandro Botticelli (Italian, 1446 - 1510 ), The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1478/1482, tempera and oil on panel. Washington, National Gallery, Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Photo: National Gallery

Sandro Botticelli (Italian, 1446 – 1510 ), The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1478/1482, tempera and oil on panel. Washington, National Gallery, Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Photo: National Gallery

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About Dianne L. Durante

I constantly seek out art that's inspiring, thought-provoking, skillfully executed, and/or beautiful so I can share it (in jargon-free language) with others who need and enjoy such art, but don't have time to search for it themselves. As an independent scholar, writer, and lecturer, I focus on art history and history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are three volumes on Alexander Hamilton, Central Park: The Early Years, Innovators in Sculpture (a survey of 5,000 years of art in 2 hours), and two videoguide apps by Guides Who Know. Click on the Books & Essays tab for a list of all books. For upcoming projects, see my Patreon page.

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