|Adoration of the Magi ~ Gentile de Fabriano ~ 1423|
This marvelous Renaissance painting is nine feet long and a little more than six feet high. Fabriano put everything he had into its creation: the paints are made of brilliant materials and even precious stones have been embedded to create the richness we see here.
Actually the whole story of the visiting Magi is told throughout. In the upper left hand corner (which we don't see) and across the top, we travel with the Magi on their long journey. Then the image draws us around to the bottom left where we see this dramatic and lively adoration of the Holy Child and the giving of gifts. Fabriano has made the story very exotic, including a camel, a lion, and a monkey. By the look of it, the Magi have told others where they were going, and this great crowd grew and followed along.
We notice Mary's mid-wives, girl-friends or neighbors talking about the first gift which Mary has evidently handed off, her arms already full with a wriggling baby. A servant-boy seems to be taking care of the shoes the third guest is wearing. The traditional donkey and cow are in the cave. In contrast to the energized and maybe noisy crowd, we see Joseph standing in silence, reminding us that this is a contemplative moment. Maybe he broke his silence simply to indicate, "Shh!"
for Thy coming to earth for us men?
Each of Thy creatures brings Thee a thank-offering -
The angels - singing
The heavens - a star.
The wise men - treasures
The shepherds - devotion.
The earth - a cave.
The desert - a manger.
But we offer Thee, the Virgin-Mother.
O eternal God have mercy upon us.
Eastern Christian Hymn