Gentile da Fabriano - Adoration of the Magi, 1423

Gentile da Fabriano - Adoration of the Magi, 1423

This is an incredibly intricate polytryptic altarpiece in Santa Trinita (a church of the Vallumbrosan Order), commissioned by Palla Strozzi who was the richest man in Florence at the time. Gold was very expensive and was used to indicate the sumptuous and elaborate life Palastrozzi could afford. This piece can be described as International Gothic, due to the style and pinnacles at the top of the frame.

This altarpiece depicts the Magi (the three wise men) kissing the feet of baby Jesus. It is a simultaneous narrative showing the Magi in different movements; standing, bending, kneeling, all to create a diagonal line similar to a vanishing point at the central focus - the baby Jesus. Additionally, their ages are all different; one represents youth, the second is middle-aged, and the third is an old man to represent the three ages of man. The three wise men are shown offering the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. This is the only scene in the New Testament which allows for sumptuous clothing, and can therefore be used to represent the Florentine's love for silk, tapestry and colour.

St. Joseph stands behind the Virgin Mary who sits Jesus on her lap in front of the barn in which he was born, made especially recognisable by the resting cattle. The baby Jesus is depicted leaning forward with his left arm outstretched to bless the elderly Magi at his feet. In the background is a rich menagerie of people and animals who have gathered from all around the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

It is said that Palla Strozzi can be seen in the painting, which was not unusual at the time for the patron to be included in some way to affiliate themselves with the Arts and the Church. Some say Palla Strozzi is the man in the red hat and his father is the falcon trainer, however others argue that Palla Strozzi is the falcon trainer and his eldest son Lorenzo is the man next to him.

Surrounding the main painting are tondos of the Church at the top, and scenes of Jesus' life at the bottom. The tondos show the Annunciation with the Archangel Gabriel and the Madonna, and Christ blessing in the centre. From the left, the bottom paintings depict the Nativity, the Flight into Egypt and the Presentation at the Temple.

This altarpiece also serves to convey a message from the Church, which heavily disapproved of banks. It believe such usery to make money from money was condemnable. Therefore, this painting suggests that money is actually acceptable so long as it is given to Church as gift, and serves to placate bankers who shunned the Church's teachings. Furthermore, whilst this altarpiece is very religious, it is also concerned with sumptuousness of Kings.

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