Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi|
Fra Angelico (painter)
Italian, c. 1395 - 1455
Fra Filippo Lippi (painter)
Italian, c. 1406 - 1469
The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1440/1460
tempera on panel
overall (diameter): 137.3 cm (54 1/16 in.) framed: 188 x 171.5 x 12.7 cm (74 x 67 1/2 x 5 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Object 4 of 8
An inventory of Lorenzo de' Medici's private chambers included a round Adoration—perhaps this one. It was the most valuable painting listed, although ancient cameos and natural wonders such as "unicorn horns" were worth several times more.
The artist named in the inventory was Fra Angelico, but this work is usually thought to be a collaboration between him and a fellow Florentine, Fra Filippo Lippi. Very likely the painting remained in one of their studios (whose is still debated) for a number of years, receiving sporadic attention from several workshop painters. The sweetly angelic Virgin and Child, the throng of worshipers in the upper right, and the rich carpet of plants in the foreground were probably painted by Fra Angelico. Most of the work, however, bears the stamp of Filippo. His figures are more robust and sharply defined. Compare, for example, the broad face of Joseph at the right to the Virgin's more delicate features.
All elements of the composition—figures, cityscape, landscape—spiral in response to the panel's round shape. This is one of the first examples of a tondo, or circular painting, which in the 1400s became popular for domestic religious paintings. In the case of the Adoration, the shape may have been suggested by deschi da parto, painted platters used to bring fruit, sweets, and gifts to refresh new mothers after giving birth.
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