The Adoration of the Magi
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Ottonian, Regensburg, about 1030 - 1040
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment
9 1/8 x 6 5/16 in.

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The Adoration of the Magi from this Regensburg benedictional introduces the feast of Epiphany on January 6. This holiday commemorates the visit of the three wise men from the East to the newborn Jesus. On one side the three Magi stand against a gold ground, offering their gifts in containers that may have been meant to allude to the future consecration of wine and bread in the Eucharist. Above their heads hovers the star that guided them to Jesus, drawn in red on the gold ground. On the other side of the central column, a large and monumental Virgin seated on a throne welcomes the visitors with a gesture of blessing while holding Jesus on her lap. He looks more adult than childlike as he also makes the sign of blessing. By using a restrained palette of blue, rose, green, and burnished gold, the artist imbued this scene with a calm harmony, complementing the monumentality of the balanced composition. Through all these choices, the artist expressed the majesty of the sacred figures. The Ottonian innovation of representing the wise men as kings quickly became the common depiction.