This brilliantly colored, richly decorated circular panel presents a splendid vision of the arrival of the Magi, accompanied by a courtly entourage. A 1492 inventory of Lorenzo de' Medici's estate possibly identifies this picture as the most valuable in the collection of the powerful Florentine family, and attributes it to Fra Angelico. The Adoration of the Magi actually appears to be the product of two artists; Fra Angelico may only have started the altarpiece, the greatest part of the work having been taken up by Fra Filippo Lippi.
Fra Angelico was a Dominican known for his great monastic devotion; his saintly deportment is mirrored in the quiet piety of his paintings. The representation of the Virgin Mary here characterizes his style in the pure, simple form of her head and the gentle refinement of her features. Fra Filippo's earthy style appeals to the viewer in the portrayal of massive forms and well–articulated figures. In the Adoration, the richly attired wise men and their attendants, as well as the broad–faced Joseph beside the Virgin, are usually attributed to him.
While several elements of the painting can be seen as symbolic—for example, the peacock was considered a symbol of immortality—the Adoration can also simply be appreciated for its sparkling color, delightful details, and festive gaiety.
Marks and Labels
Probably commissioned by a member of the Medici family, Florence; by inheritance to Lorenzo de' Medici [1449-1492], Florence. probably Marchese Piero Guicciardini [1569-1626]; his widow, Marchesa Simona Machiavelli [1584-1658], Florence; by inheritance to her great-nephew, Count Francesco Guicciardini [1618-1677], Florence; by inheritance to his son, Count Lorenzo Guicciardini [1652-1710], Florence; by inheritance to his son, Count Francesco Gaetano Guicciardini [1699-1780], Florence; by inheritance to his son, Count Lorenzo Guicciardini [1743-1812], Florence; by inheritance to his sons, Count Francesco [1776-1838] and Colonel Ferdinando [1782-1833] Guicciardini, Florence, in 1803; sold July 1810 to Chevalier François-Honoré Dubois, Florence and Paris, as by Botticelli. (Samuel Woodburn, London), by 1826, as by Fra Angelico. William Coningham [1815-1884], London; (his sale, Christie & Manson, London, 9 June 1849, no. 34, as by Filippo Lippi). Alexander Barker [d. 1873], London, by 1851; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 6 June 1874, no. 42, as by Filippino Lippi); purchased by (Giovanni Calvetti [d. 1875], London) for Sir Francis Cook, 1st bt. [1817-1901], Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey; by inheritance to his son, Sir Frederick Lucas Cook, 2nd bt. [1844-1920], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Herbert Frederick Cook, 3rd bt. [1868-1939], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th bt. [1907-1978], Doughty House, and Cothay Manor, Somerset; sold February 1947 through (Francis A. Drey, London) to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York, as by Filippo Lippi; gift 1952 to NGA.
- Possibly National Exhibition of Works of Art, Leeds, 1868, no. 7 or no. 17.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1875, no. 184, as The Adoration of the Infant Savior by Fra Filippo Lippi.
- National Loan Exhibition, Grafton Galleries, London, 1909-1910, no. 68, repro., as by Fra Filippo Lippi.
- Exhibition of Florentine Painting Before 1500, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1919, no. 26 as by Fra Filippo Lippi (no. 26 and pl. XXVI in illustrated catalogue published 1920).
- Exhibition of Italian Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1930, no. 93, as by Fra Filippo Lippi (no. 106 and pl. XXXVIII in commemorative catalogue published 1931; no. 35 in souvenir catalogue).
- Masterpieces from the Cook Collection, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, 1944-1945, no. 16 (Cook collection catalogue number), repro., as by Filippo Lippi.
- Masterpieces of the Cook Collection, Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1945, no cat.
- Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 32-33, repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1945-1951. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 42, no. 9, repro.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Interpreting Masterpieces: Twenty-four Paintings from the Kress Collection." Art News Annual 16 (1952): 84, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: cover and 60, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 9, 106.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 50, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Early Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Three in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 26, color repro.
- The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 6.
- Seymour 1961 (Kress), 25-28, repro. pl. 19, color repro. 20-21
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 12, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 76, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 8.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:24, color repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 95-97, fig. 259-261.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 2, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 12, repro.
- Ruda, Jeffrey. "The National Gallery Tondo of the Adoration of the Magi and the Early Style of Filippo Lippi." Studies in the History of Art vol. 7 (1975):6-39, repro.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 20, pl. 2.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:10-13, II: repro. pl. 7, 7B,C,D
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 19, pl. 3.
- Alsop, Joseph. The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and Its Linked Phenomena Wherever These Have Appeared. Bollingen series 35, no. 27. New York, 1982: 397, 403, fig. 81.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 84, no. 40, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 19, repro.
- Wolk, Linda. "The Pala Baciadonne by Perino del Vaga." Studies in the History of Art 18 (1985):41, repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 6, 189, color repros.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 15, repro.
- Shaw-Eagle, Joanna. "Christ's Birth Gave Birth to Astounding Images: Gallery Glitters with holy Masterpieces." Washington Times (December 21, 1997): D5, repro.
- Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 21-30, color repro.
- Danziger, Elon. "The Cook Collection: Its Founder and Its Inheritors." The Burlington Magazine 146, no. 1216 (July 2004): 444, 448, 457, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 20-21, no. 15, color repro.
- Sale, J. Russell. "Birds of a feather: the Medici 'Adoration' tondo in Washington." The Burlington Magazine 149 (January 2007): 4-13, repro.
- Campbell, Stephen J. and Michael W. Cole. Italian Renaissance Art. New York, 2013: 248, 249, color fig. 9.19.