Adoration of the Magi

back: Triptych of the Uffizi

Adoration of the Magi

Chapel of St. George, Mantua  >  Triptych of the Uffizi

The Adoration of the Magi is one of the panels of the Triptych of the Uffizi, painted by Andrea Mantegna by request of Ludovico II Gonzaga to decorate the Ducal Chapel of the S. George Castel in Mantua.

The majority of the historians agree on the dating, between 1462 and 1464, which correspond the first years of Mantegna in Mantua. Kristeller believes that the concave support of the painting could indicate the original location of the painting in the apse of the chapel.

From the panels of the Triptych of the Uffizi, the Adoration of the Magi offers a series of meanings linked to the iconography. The subject alone is obviously the traditional symbol of the Epiphany of Jesus. But in this case, the interpretation of Mantegna refers both to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

The group of the Madonna with Child is actually built on the model of the Theotokos (God-bearer), where the Virgin holds the son in an introductory gesture also seen as an "offer", hinting at the Sacrifice and Passion of Christ.

Other symbols, like the cherubs around Mary and the cave immersed in darkness, take us simultaneously to the place and moment of the birth and of the sepulchre, the place of death and resurrection of Christ. The star comet represents the byzantine way as a sword on Mary's head, and is probably the image of the pain of the Mary as described in the Bible by the prophet Simeon.

Leandro Ventura has indicated Basil II's Menologium as another source for this symbol, which indicates that he had somehow obtained the confirmation that around Veneto during the 1400, there was a particular interest in the Byzantine-Greek culture.

Another dear symbol of the Gothic tradition is the fig tree on the top, bearing a dry branch as an allusion to death, and from which sprouts a new and luxuriant plant, a sign of resurrection. The fig tree is also the plant attributed to the cross of Christ, as written in Pierre Bersuire's Repertorium Morale. It's an image that Mantegna could certainly have seen in the Deposition of Christ, a fresco by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, and that he had already proposed in his Adoration of the Shepherds, which is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

The scene is immersed in an atmosphere that is far from serene. Beyond the solemnity of the occasion, a certain sadness can be grasped, either on the expression of the characters and their composed poses, or on the rugged and rocky landscape.
The whole painting is therefore proposed as a reflection regarding the Christian mysteries of Birth, Sacrifice and Resurrection.

Deeply linked with the religious subject, the Adoration of the Magi also makes reference to current affairs and the Council of Mantua, held at Ludovico Gonzaga's Castle of S. George. The journey of the Three Kings to visit Jesus indicates Christ's acknowledgement of the terrestrial powers. But as a subtle association, the procession of the travelling kings also refers to the arrival of the Christian princes in Mantua, summoned for a religious mission and gathered in the Church of S. Andrew to worship the relic of the Holy Blood. The oriental outfits, the camels, and the exoticism in the somatic traits of many characters refer to the Crusades against the Turks for the liberation of Jerusalem, which was to be decided during the Council of Mantua.

The conservation of the painting is reasonable, even if during the restoration a rough repaint has been uncovered, probably to cover a large damaged area. The central area of the painting has been reproduced in an unfinished copy attributed to the school of Mantegna.

A. Cocchi

Trad.: A. Sturmer


Lionello Puppi Cianfrusaglie reperti e un talent scout in: Il Romanzo della pittura. Masaccio e Piero. Supplemento al n° 29 de "la Repubblica" del 2.11.1988
Claudia Cleri Via Mantegna. Art eDossier n.55. Giunti, Firenze. 1991
M. Bellonci, N. Garavaglia L'opera completa di Mantegna. Classici dell'arte Rizzoli, Milano 1966
La Nuova Enciclopedia dell'Arte Garzanti.
AA.VV. Moduli di Arte. Dal Rinascimento maturo al rococò. Electa-Bruno Mondadori, Roma 2000
A. Blunt Le teorie artistiche in Italia dal Rinascimento al Manierismo. Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi, Giulio Einaudi Editore, Torino 1966
G. Cricco, F. Di Teodoro, Itinerario nell’arte, vol. 2, Zanichelli Bologna 2004
G. Dorfles, S. Buganza, J. Stoppa Storia dell'arte. Vol II Dal Quattrocento al Settecento. Istituto Italiano Edizioni Atlas, Bergamo 2008


Tags:Alessandra Cocchi, A. Sturmer, Mantegna, chapel, St. George, painting, Reinassance, art, .


Per saperne di più sulla città di: Firenze, Uffizi


Per informazioni su questi dipinti clicca qui.


Andrea Mantegna. Adoration of the Magi. 1462-64. Tempera on wood. 76,5X76,5cm. Florence, Uffizi

Andrea Mantegna. Adoration of the Magi. 1462-64. Tempera on wood. Detail. 76,5X76,5cm. Florence, Uffizi

Andrea Mantegna. Adoration of the Magi. 1462-64. Tempera on wood. Detail. 76,5X76,5cm. Florence, Uffizi

Andrea Mantegna. Adoration of the Magi. 1462-64. Tempera on wood. Detail. 76,5X76,5cm. Florence, Uffizi


Questo sito utilizza i cookie. Accedendo a questo sito, accetti il fatto che potremmo memorizzare e accedere ai cookie sul tuo dispositivo. Clicca qui per maggiori informazioni. OK