Archive for the Sandro Botticelli Category

Feast Day of the Epiphany

Posted in Feast of the Epiphany, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Hieronymus Bosch, Nicholas Poussin, Orientalist, Sandro Botticelli on January 5, 2011 by babylonbaroque

January 6th is the feast day of the Epiphany, a time for many of us to tear down the tree, stash the glitter for our more somber decor, and with  a certain melancholy, be happy the hub-bub is over.

It is of course also when , to believers, the infant was revealed as the Son of God.

Adoration of the Magi with Saint Anthony Abbot

about 1390-1410



Getty Museum

The very word epiphany is a joy to say, it sounds magical, sacred, not of this mundane world.

Within this very special world ,where beautiful infants reveal their identity as gods, three visitors with names equally exhilarating, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar; artists have found intense inspiration. What artist can resist this scene, the mother and child, the barnyard beasts, the shepherds, and the Kings, with rare gifts, who would want to resist?

Adoration of the Magi

Georges Lallemant

before 1624

Adoration of the Magi

Francesco Bassano


The Hermitage

It is unfortunately quite doubtful that the Magi were so majestically dressed, little baby Jesus would have enjoyed the spectacle.

What we do know comes from Matthew 2:1 ,

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem”.

“From the east” is what we had to run with, and artistic  imagination certainly ran. Balthasar a striking Moor, Casper and Melchior representing Orientalist fantasies of Persia and India, all so grand.

Those far wiser then this author have suggested the Magi hailed from Persia, with connections to Zoroaster, some have suggested Babylon ( which of course I would prefer). Early images of the Magi, will often have them wearing Phrygian caps.

Roman catacomb painting



Basillica de Santa Maria Maggiore



Coming from the east, they made a pit stop at Herod’s palace,

Then Herod, when he had prively called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared”

Matthew 2:7.

Three Magi before Herod

early 15th century

Musée National du Moyen Ãge

I love how nasty Herod looks.

Adoration of the Magi

Duccio di Buoninisegna 1308-11

Museo dell ‘Opera de Duomo


” And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts;gold, and frankincense, and myrrh”

Matthew 2:11.


ca, 1200


Musée National du Moyen Ãge

Adoration of the Magi

Jean Bourdichon

Musée du Louvre


An exciting resource for images of the Magi tale is right here in LA, the Getty Museum, this link provides a handy list.

Adoration of the Magi

Gaspare Diziani


Museum of Fine Arts


Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli


Uffizi Gallery

One of my favorites,

Adoration of the Magi

Nicolas Poussin


So enchanted was Gian-Carlo Mennoti by this Bosch interpretation, he was compelled to create Amahl and the Night Visitor.

Adoration of the Magi

Hieronymous Bosch

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gian-Carlo Menotti

around 1944

b.7th July 1911

d.1st February 2007

I am familiar with this operas, I am ambivalent about the music.

My hesitations concerning this work  may be due in great part to sorrowful memories of Episcopalian amateurs caterwauling Menotti’s work; I happened to once create sets for it as my church was putting on a production.

Whatever my feelings are, I am impressed that Amahl was commissioned by NBC for its NBC Opera Theatre. I have a clip from 24th of December 1951, in which it aired on the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

Happy  Feast Day of the Epiphany !

Respectfully submitted,