Analyze Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi  in terms of composition, gradations of color, and use of perspective.

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The Adoration of the Magi, also known as Pala (Italian for "altar piece") Strozzi from the name of the wealthy banker who commissioned it, shows the entire journey of the Magi. Starting from the upper left corner, it takes the viewer through the itinerary followed by the three kings to get to the larger scene of the adoration of Jesus and gift-giving. This scene is indeed the focus of the piece and occupies all its lower part. The piece, tempera on panel, is characterized by abundance in different forms: abundance in the narratives and the characters portrayed, but also abundance in the clothes that people wear whose gold decorations and brocades signify luxury. Because of this emphasis on luxury, some commentators have argued that the composition of the painting takes into account two worlds: the world of devotion, represented by the Magi and their adoration, and the more mundane world, also recalling the courtly culture, surrounding their journey and caught with realistic details. Below this central panel, the altar piece has a predella with several stories of Jesus (Nativity, Rest in the Flight to Egypt and the Presentation to the Temple) and, above it, there are roundels with God, Abraham and the Prophet Micah.

The colors in the piece are generally bright although Fabriano experimented with the alternation of light and shadow in the upper part. The arrival to Bethlehem forces the Magi on a steep hill from which they cast long shadows below.

The artist still did not use perspective as his works represent a transition from middle-ages techniques to Renaissance ones emphasizing perspective. 

 

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