Chota

Chota

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

{Happy Epiphany!}

Today marks the day the Magi brought their gifts to the young baby, Jesus. It was a common iconography in the Renaissance, and was a very big feast day during that time too. I first came across the importance of the holiday, when I was an undergrad and had to write a seminar paper on the Magi. I became so enthralled reading all about the celebrations of the Epiphany, when kings and princes would knock at doors to collect proceeds. In Florence, the entire city would be transformed into Bethlehem and a huge procession would take place, organised by the Compagnia de' Magi (for more, read the article by Hatfield). In a lot of Catholic countries they still celebrate this day. In Italy it's called La Beffana, for instance.
There are so many fantastic paintings of the Adoration of the Magi, but some of my favourites are done by Mantegna. In particular, this one at the Getty:
{Andrea Mantegna, Adoration of the Magi, about 1495 - 1505, Getty, LA}

I've been working on this painting as part of a new book project on the exchange of objects between Italian courts and foreign polities. The gifts these Magi bear are not only about what's inside, but the vessels would have been highly-sought collector's items in the fifteenth century.
On a day that is traditionally about giving, even if you don't have a present, perhaps you can just be extra kind today. Why not?
Happy Epiphany!
L


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