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Overview

Sandro Botticelli, a Florentine, painted several versions of the theme of the Adoration of the Magi. The Magi, or wise men, were particularly venerated in Florence, as one of the city's leading religious confraternities was dedicated to them. The members of the confraternity took part in pageants organized every five years, when the journey to Bethlehem of the Magi and their retinue, often numbering in the hundreds, was re-enacted through the streets of Florence.

The Washington Adoration was probably painted in Rome, where Pope Sixtus IV had called the artist to fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel, along with other leading Florentine masters of the day. Botticelli's linear and decorative Adoration is set in the ruin of a classical temple instead of a humble stable. This setting emphasizes the belief that Christianity arose from the ruins of paganism, and suggests a continuity between ancient and Christian philosophy.

Earlier Renaissance paintings of this theme, such as the Gallery's tondo by Fra Angelico and Fra Lippi, emphasize the pomp and pageantry of the scene. As painted by Botticelli in this late version, the religious aspect is stressed. Each figure is an expression of piety, the postures of their hands and bodies revealing devotion, reverence and contemplation on the divine mystery before them.

Provenance

Said to have been acquired from a private collection in Rome by the engraver Peralli.[1] Dominique Vivant Denon [1747-1825], Paris;[2] sold 1808 to Czar Alexander I of Russia, [1777-1825], Saint Petersburg; Imperial Hermitage Gallery, Saint Petersburg;[3] purchased January 1931 through (Matthiesen Gallery, Berlin; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London and New York; and M. Knoedler & Co., New York and London) by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.;[4] deeded 5 June 1931 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[5] gift 1937 to NGA.

Bibliography

1844
Viardot, Louis. Les Musées d’Allemagne et de Russie: Guide et memento de l’artiste et du voyageur. Paris, 1844: 471, as by Andrea Mantegna.
1863
de Koehne, B. Ermitage Impérial. Catalogue des tableaux. St. Petersburg, 1863: 3-4, as by Andrea Mantegna.
1864
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Die Gemäldesammlung in der kaiserlichen Ermitage zu St. Petersburg nebst Bemerkungen über andere dortige Kunstsammlungen. Munich, 1864: 29.
1869
Crowe, Joseph Archer, and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Geschichte der italienischen Malerei. 6 vols. Leipzig, 1869-1876: 3(1870):175.
1879
Clément de Ris, Louis. “Musée Imperial de l’Ermitage a Saint-Pétersbourg.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 19 (1879): 187.
1886
Crowe, Joseph Archer, and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Storia della pittura in Italia dal secolo II al secolo XVI. 11 vols. Florence, 1886-1908: 6(1894):306-308.
1891
Brüiningk, E., and Andrei Somof. Eremitage Impérial. Catalogue de la Galerie des Tableaux. Les Écoles d’Italie et d’Espagne. St Petersburg, 1891: 72-73, repro.
1893
Ulmann, Hermann. Sandro Botticelli. Munich, 1893: 65-66, 155.
1896
Berenson, Bernard. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance: with an index to their works. New York, 1896: 106.
1896
Harck, Fritz. “Notizen über Italienische Bilder in petersburger Sammlungen.” Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 19 (1896): 414-415.
1897
Steinmann, Ernst. Botticelli. Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1897: 64-66.
1899
Somov, Andrei Ivanovich. Ermitage Impérial. Catalogue de la Galerie des Tableaux. Les Écoles d’Italie et d’Espagne, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1899: 55, repro.
1900
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1900
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1901
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1902
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1903
Horne, Herbert P. “A Lost ‘Adoration of the Magi’ by Sandro Botticelli.” The Burlington Magazine 1 (March-May 1903): 63.
1903
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1906
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1907
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1907
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1907
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1908
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1908
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1909
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1909
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1912
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1912
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1913
Binyon, Laurence. The Art of Botticelli: An Essay in Pictorial Criticism. London, 1913: 109.
1913
Oppé, Adolf P. Sandro Botticelli: ouvrage illustré de vingt-cinq planches en couleurs tirées hors texte. Paris, 1913: no. VI.
1921
Bode, Wilhelm von. Botticelli. Berlin, 1921: 48-50, 51, 200, 205.
1922
Bode, Wilhelm von. Botticelli, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1922: 60-63, 216, 221, repro.
1923
Marle, Raimond van. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 19 vols. The Hague, 1923-1938: 12(1931): 122, fig. 69.
1923
Schmarsow, August. Sandro Botticelli. Dresden, 1923: 31-32.
1923
Wiener, Pierre P. Les Chefs-d’oeuvre de la galerie de tableaux de l’Ermitage à Petrograd. Munich, 1923: 21, repro.
1925
Venturi, Adolfo. Botticelli. Rome, 1925: 44, 113.
1925
Yashiro, Yukio. Sandro Botticelli. 3 vols. London and Boston, 1925: 1:43-44, 58-59.
1929
Yashiro, Yukio. Sandro Botticelli and the Florentine Renaissance. London and Boston, 1929: pl. LXXV, fig. 32.
1931
“Hermitage Art Reported Sold to A. W. Mellon.” Art News 30 (October 1931): 3.
1933
“Editorial: Breaking up the Hermitage.” The Burlington Magazine 63, no. 365 (August 1933): 53.
1933
Venturi, Lionello. Italian Paintings in America. 3 vols. New York and Milan, 1933: 2:pl.251.
1935
“Adoration of the Magi.” Art News 33 (23 February 1935): 4.
1935
“Rundschau. Amerika.” Pantheon 15 (April 1935): 147.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 54, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 54, repro.).
1936
Berenson, Bernard. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936: 91.
1936
Gamba, Carlo. Botticelli. Milan, 1936: 141, pl. 90.
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 12.
1937
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "New Items in the Mellon Collection." Art News 35 (13 February, 1937): 12.
1937
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 82.
1937
“Le don de M. Mellon à la nation américaine.” Revue de l’arte ancien et moderne 71, no. 376 (1937): 84.
1937
Venturi, Lionello. Botticelli. New York and Vienna, 1937: 16.
1938
Mesnil, Jacques. Botticelli. Paris, 1938: 67, 226, pl. XXX.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 29, no. 22.
1941
"World Masterpieces Lend Supreme Distinction to National Gallery of Art." The Washington Star (16 March 1941): F6.
1942
Bettini, Sergio. Botticelli. Milan, 1942: 31, pl. 72.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 239, repro. 76.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 40, color repro.
1945
“Italian Paintings in the Andrew W. Mellon Collection.” Connoisseur 115, no. 396 (June 1945): 115, repro.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 24, repro.
1949
Venturi, Lionello. Botticelli. London, 1949: 12.
1951
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 46-48, repro.
1952
Vertova, Luisa. Botticelli. Milan, 1952: figs. 30-31.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 18, color repro.
1957
Chastel, André. Botticelli. Milan, 1957: 30, 32, repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 31.
1958
Salvini, Roberto. Tutta la pittura del Botticelli, 2 vols. Milan, 1958: 1:28-29, 63-64, pls. 108-111.
1959
Chastel, André. Art et Humanisme à Florence au temps de Laurent le Magnifique: études sur la Renaissance et l’humanisme platonicien. Paris, 1959: 241 n. 2.
1959
Murray, Peter. An Index of Attributions Made in Tuscan Sources Before Vasari. Florence, 1959: 32.
1959
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.): 30, color repro.
1960
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, repro.
1961
DeWald, Ernest T. Italian Painting 1200-1600. New York, 1961: 276, 277, repro.
1963
Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School, 2 vols. London, 1963: 1:38.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 82, repro.
1964
Boskovits, Miklós. Botticelli. Budapest, 1964: 30.
1965
Mallé, Luigi. “Appunti albertiani in margine al ‘Della pittura’.” Arte Lombarda 10 (1965): 216.
1965
Ragghianti, Carlo L. “Consistenza e valore dei dipinti della Galleria degli Uffizi.” Critica d’Arte 12, no. 72 (June 1965): 18.
1965
Salvini, Roberto. All the Paintings of Botticelli, 4 vols. New York, 1965: 2:72, pls. 108-111.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 17.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:48, color repro.
1966
Walton, William. "Parnassus on Potomac." Art News 65 (March 1966): 38.
1967
Mandel, Gabriel. The Complete Paintings of Botticelli. Milan and New York, 1967: 96.
1968
Gandolfo, Giampaolo et al. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Great Museums of the World. New York, 1968: 11, 29, color repro.
1968
Golzio, Vincenzo and Giuseppe Zander. L’arte in Roma nel secolo XV. Bologna, 1968: 233.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 10, repro.
1968
Ragghianti, Carlo, ed. National Gallery, Washington. New York, [1968]: 29-30, repro.
1968
Stites, Raymond S. “La Madonna del Melograno di Leonardo da Vinci, 2.” Critica d’Arte 15, no. 97 (September 1968): 64, fig. 27.
1969
Hartt, Frederick. History of Italian Renaissance Art. New York, 1969: 282.
1972
Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, MA, 1972: 34.
1973
Finley, David Edward. A Standard of Excellence: Andrew W. Mellon Founds the National Gallery of Art at Washington. Washington, 1973: 22, 23, repro.
1974
Sterling, Charles. “Fighting Animals in the Adoration of the Magi.” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 61 (1974): 358 n. 5.
1974
Walker, John. Self-Portrait with Donors: Confessions of an Art Collector. Boston, 1974: 115-116.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 36, repro.
1975
Olson, Roberta J. M. “Studies in the Later Works of Sandro Botticelli.” Ph.D. diss. Princeton University, 1975: 185-190.
1975
Ragghianti, Carlo L., and Gigetta Dalli Regoli. Firenze 1470-1480. Disegni dal modello. Pollaiolo, Leonardo, Botticelli, Filippino. Pisa, 1975: 84, 85, 128, figs. 39, 75.
1976
Ettlinger, Leopold D., and Helen S. Ettlinger. Botticelli. London, 1976: 44-45.
1976
Hatfield, Rab. Botticelli’s Uffizi “Adoration”: A study in pictorial content. Princeton, 1976: 36 n. 6, 71 n. 14, 72, 102, 113 n. 21.
1976
Santi, Bruno. Botticelli. Florence, 1976: 45.
1977
Stella, Maria Carmela. Le Adorazioni dei magi e la Natività mistica di Botticelli. Lanciano, 1977: 28-30.
1978
Lightbown, Ronald. Botticelli: Life and Work. 2 vols. Berkeley, CA, 1978: 1:68, pl. 29. 2:46-47, cat. B34.
1978
Olson, Roberta J. M. "Botticelli's Horsetamer: A Quotation from Antiquity which Reaffirms a Roman Date for the Washington Adoration." Studies in the History of Art vol. 8 (1978): 6-21, repro.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:81-83; 2:pl. 53, 53.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 27, pl. 10.
1980
De Angelis, Rita. Boticelli: Every Painting. Milan and New York, 1980: 26, cat. 32.
1981
Beck, James H. Italian Renaissance Painting. New York, 1981: 182, 184, repro.
1983
Castelfranchi Vegas, Liana. Italia e Fiandra nella pittura del Quattrocento. Milan, 1983: 198.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 94, no. 55, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 56, repro.
1987
Horne, Herbert. H. Alessandro Filipepi commonly called Sandro Botticelli, Painter of Florence. Appendix III: Catalogue of the works of Sandro Botticelli, and of his disciples and imitators, together with notices of those erroneously attributed to him in the public and private collections of Europe and America. Ed. Caterina Caneva. Florence, 1987: 180, as School of Botticelli.
1988
Baldini, Umberto. Botticelli. Florence, 1988: 286.
1989
Lightbown, Ronald. Botticelli: Life and Work. Milan, 1989: 111-113, pl. 48.
1989
Pons, Nicoletta. Botticelli: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989: 67, cat. 50.
1989
Sekine. Istituto Giapponese di Cultura. The Japan Foundation. Annuario 23 (1989): 57 n. 13.
1990
Caneva, Caterina. Botticelli: catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1990: 74, cat. 36.
1990
Gizzi, Corrado, ed. Botticelli e Dante. Ext. cat., Casa di Dante, Florence, 1990: 28.
1991
Gingold, Diane J., and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 50-51, color repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 90-91, color repro.
1992
Duwe, Gert. Die Anbetung der Heiligen Drei Könige in der italienischen Kunst des Trecento und Quattrocento. Frankfurt am Main, 1992: 175-180, fig. 17.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 22, repro.
1992
Petrioli Tofani, Annamaria, ed. Il disegno fiorentino del tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Exh. cat. Galleria degli Uffizi, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, Florence, 1992: 271.
1993
Deimling, Barbara. Sandro Botticelli, 1444/5-1510. Cologne, 1993: 57-58, repro.
1994
Caneva, Caterina. “Ultime indagini sulla tarda Adorazione dei Magi di Botticelli agli Uffizi.” In Elizabeth Cropper, ed. Florentine Drawings at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Papers from a Colloquium held at the Villa Spelman, Florence, 1992. Bologna, 1994: 272.
1996
Hunter, Sam and Melissa de Medeiros. The Rise of the Art World in America: Knoedler at 150. Exh. cat. M. Knoedler & Company, New York, 1996: 13.
1997
Neverov, Oleg, and Mikhail Piotrovsky. The Hermitage: Essays on the History of the Collection, Saint Petersburg, 1997: 164-165, repro.
1997
Paoletti, John T. and Gary M. Radke. Art in Renaissance Italy. London, 1997: 296, repro.
1999
Rubin, Patricia Lee, and Alison Wright with contributions by Nicholas Penny. Renaissance Florence: The Art of the 1470s. New Haven, 1999: 290, as by Botticelli, perhaps with Filippino Lippi.
2003
Boskovits, Miklós, David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2003: 161-166, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 24-25, no. 17, color repro.
2005
Cecchi, Alessandro. Botticelli. Milan, 2005: 142, repro., as by Botticelli, perhaps with Filippino Lippi.
2005
Zöllner, Frank. Botticelli. Munich, London, and New York, 2005: 204, cat. 31.
2006
Fahy, Everett. "Early Italian paintings in Washington and Philadelphia." The Burlington Magazine 148, no. 1241 (August 2006): 538.
2006
Gasparotto, Davide. “La riscoperta ottocentesca di Botticelli: critici, artisti, collezionisti.” In Davide Gasparotto and Antonelli Gigli, eds. Il tondo di Botticelli a Piacenza. Milan, 2006: 19.
2006
Körner, Hans. Botticelli. Cologne, 2006: 240, fig. 128.
2009
Acidini, Cristina, William Dello Russo, and Federico Poletti. Botticelli nel suo tempo. Milan, 2009: 22, 114, 277, repro.
2009
Odom, Anne, and Wendy R. Salmond, eds. Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938. Washington, 2009: 91, 99, 106 n. 89, 131, 135 n. 62, 202.
2010
Dumbrowski, Damian. Die religiösen Gemälde Sandro Botticellis: Malerei als pia philosophia. Berlin and Munich, 2010: 124-127, as by Filippino Lippi.
2010
Nagel, Alexander, and Christopher Wood. Anachronic Renaissance. Brooklyn, 2010: 304, 305, fig. 24.3.
2011
Fiedler, Susanne, and Torsten Knuth. "Vexierbilder einer Biographie: Dr. Heinz Mansfeld (1899-1959)." Mecklenburgische Jahrbücher 126 (2011):307.
2011
Kustodieva, Tat'jana. Museo Statale Ermitage: La pittura italiana dal XIII al XVI secolo. Milan, 2011: 18.
2011
Singer, Nina. " Galerie Matthiesen." In Gute Geschäfte. Kunsthandel in Berlin 1933-1945. Exh. cat., Aktives Museum, Berlin, 2011: 73-80, repro.
2013
Semyonova, Natalya, and Nicolas V. Iljine, eds. Selling Russia's Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art 1917-1938. New York and London, 2013: 138, 139, 170, 198-199, repro.
2014
Hoff, Michael. Andacht und Identität: Zur Darstellung Christi in der Malerei der Florentiner Frührenaissance. Marburg, 2014: 176-177, 182, fig. 96.
2015
Hui, Andrew. “The Birth of Ruins in Quattrocento Adoration Paintings.” I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 18, no. 2 (September 2015): 319-320, 330-332, 334, fig. 4.
2016
Jaques, Susan. The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia. New York, 2016: 398.
2016
Warner-Johnson, Tim, and Jeremy Howard, eds. Colnaghi: Past, Present and Future: An Anthology. London, 2016: 58-59, color plate 6.
2021
Debenedetti, Ana. Botticelli: Artist and Designer. London, 2021: 198 n. 39.
2021
Gianeselli, Matteo. “Sandro Botticelli et la France du XIX2 siècle: musées et collectioneurs.” In Ana Debenedetti and Pierre Curie, eds. Botticelli, artiste & designer. Exh. cat. Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 2021: 65 n. 4.
2022
Acidini, Cristina. Botticelli. Pisa, 2022: 126, repro.
2023
Rinaldi, Furio, ed. Botticelli Drawings. Exh. cat. Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2023: 122, 278 n 59.
2023
Rinaldi, Furio. “Newly attributed drawings by Botticelli.” The Burlington Magazine 165, no. 1441 (April 2023): 363, figs. 10, 12.

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