Adoration of the Magi
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Defendente Ferrari
Italian, Piedmont, about 1520
Oil on panel
103 1/4 x 73 1/4 in.

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In this altarpiece, whose top was originally curved, the kings kneel at Christ's feet and their entourage gathers around, symbolizing the three continents--Asia, Europe, and Africa--to which Christianity would soon spread. The Adoration of the Magi story allowed artists to depict the kings' wondrous gifts and exotic splendor, making it a favorite subject for altarpieces in the 1400s and 1500s.

Following the Netherlandish tradition, Defendente Ferrari painted minute details, jewel-like color, and distinct physical types. The angular style, richly embroidered draperies, and specific faces show his familiarity with the practices of Rogier van der Weyden and southern France.