Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445 – May 17, 1510)
Adorazione dei Magi (The Adoration of the Magi)
1475 - 6
Tempera on panel
111 x 134 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi Florence
One of the most beautiful depictions of The Adoration of the Magi is that of Botticelli in the Uffizi in Florence, the so called "the Medici Adoration"
Originally it was the altarpiece of a now demolished chapel in Santa Maria Novella
Botticelli painted a whole series of Adorations of the Magi including one for the front of a coffin.
It was a popular theme in Florentine painting. It was a particular favourite theme of the Medici family. A confraternity of the Magi was attached to the church of San Marco. In the Convent of San Marco Cosimo de' Medici had his own cell which was decorated with a fresco of the Adoration. In the Medici palace chapel by Benozzo Gozzoli, portraits of the family are placed in the retinue of the Kings
Botticelli was among the first artists to centralise the subject of the Adoration
Members of the Medici family are the Magi
The painting is usually highlighted as the the blond man with yellow mantle on the far right is supposed to be a self portrait of the artist
The setting of a broken down house or palace represents the end of the old dispensation of the Mosaic Law and the beginning of a New which the birth of Christ heralded. Legend had it that earthquakes destroyed pagan temples at the moment Christ was born
In the painting the Magi including the Medici and the elite of Florence have come to worship the Infant Christ.
Sandro Botticelli was in many ways the artist who became most closely identified with the Medicis and their image. Later he became a follower of the Dominican, Girolamo Savonarola, who replaced the Medici as rulers of Florence. It was a true and deep conversion. He never painted again
The Magi`s quest and purpose was quite simple. They said to Herod:
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)
The great hymn of praise and thanks in Jesus`s time was Psalm 136, the Great Hallel:
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.His love endures forever.2 Give thanks to the God of gods.His love endures forever.3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:His love endures forever.4 to him who alone does great wonders,His love endures forever.5 who by his understanding made the heavens,His love endures forever.6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,His love endures forever.7 who made the great lights—His love endures forever.8 the sun to govern the day,His love endures forever.9 the moon and stars to govern the night;His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of EgyptHis love endures forever.11 and brought Israel out from among themHis love endures forever.12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunderHis love endures forever.14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,His love endures forever.15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings,His love endures forever.18 and killed mighty kings—His love endures forever.19 Sihon king of the AmoritesHis love endures forever.20 and Og king of Bashan—His love endures forever.21 and gave their land as an inheritance,His love endures forever.22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estateHis love endures forever.24 and freed us from our enemies.His love endures forever.25 He gives food to every creature.His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.His love endures forever. "
It was this great Psalm which was the subject of Pope Benedict XVI`s catechesis on Wednesday last. He said:
"[The Psalm] summarises the whole of salvation history as recounted for us in the Old Testament. It is a great hymn of praise that extols the Lord in the manifold, repeated manifestations of His goodness throughout the course of human history. "
Here is an Orthodox sung version of the Psalm, the song known to and sung by Christ himself and sung by Him and His disciples after the Passover: