Artifact Corner: Adoration of the Magi

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a beautiful painting that is hanging above the mantle in our Gold Parlor room. The title of this work is the Adoration of the Magi, and like most Renaissance paintings it features a religious theme. This piece was painted around 1640, and has been attributed to the Flemish artist Frans Francken, or it might have been painted in his style by one of his apprentices. It was standard practice in the Renaissance for painters of note to have apprentices and students who studied under them and aided them in their work. Because of this it can sometimes be hard to tell if a work was done by the master artist exclusively or if it was done in cooperation with an apprentice. This piece is a good example of a late Renaissance painting. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of Renaissance art.

The Renaissance period begins in the late 14th Century and runs through to the 17th Century. The term Renaissance refers to the revival of classical art and literature in Europe during this time period. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, art, architecture, and literature had seen a dramatic shift. Gone were the hyper realistic sculptures and paintings of natural forms, like this sculpture of Augustus of Prima Porta, from the early 1st century. In their place was highly stylized works like this page from the book of Kells. Figures of animals and people were now represented in two dimensions, with an emphasis on intricate scroll work. These pieces were known as Illuminated manuscripts. This style was very popular in Britain and Northern Europe.

In the later half of the 1200’s, an artist by the name of Giotto was born, and the art world in Europe would be changed forever. Giotto is considered the father of the Italian Renaissance. He is the first artist to begin to paint with a depth of field, a foreground and a background, as you can see in this painting titled The Annunciation. The impact of his work is felt throughout Europe, and a seismic shift in both religious and secular art began. Following Giotto we have some of the most famous artists in history creating some of the most beautiful art piece in Europe. These giants of the art world were based mostly in Italy, which became the epicenter for the Renaissance. Here are just a few example of some of the amazing works by some of the Renaissances most talented artists. Fra Filippo Lippi’s Madonna and Child painted in 1460 in Florence, Italy. Sandro Botticelli’s La Primavera, painted in 1482 in Florence, Italy. Michelangelo’s Pieta, sculpted in 1499 in Rome, Italy. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, painted in 1503 in Florence, Italy. And there are so many more brilliant works of art, by so many other artists in so many other countries across Europe during this time period.

Our painting came to us thanks to the travels of the Delord family. Frances Henrietta Delord and her husband Henry Webb spent over a year in Europe for their honeymoon, and brought back many travels from the Continent. The artifact is oil paint on wood. Wood was a very common canvas material for this period. We have had the painting professionally cleaned. Thanks to a couple of hundred years in rooms only heated by fire, the painting had darkened considerably, and the colors had become muted. With all of the soot and dust from hundreds of years removed, the colors are again vibrant. We hope you enjoyed this look back at some of the amazing works of art created during the Renaissance, including this treasure in our own backyards. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,