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Cosmè Tura, The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1480)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1480) by Cosmè Tura.

About the Work

Title : The Adoration of the Magi
Artist : Cosmè Tura
Year : c. 1480
Medium : Tempera on panel
Dimensions : 38.7 x 38.4 cm (15 1/4 x 15 1/8 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The subject of the adoration of the Magi was a common one in the era to which this painting belongs. The scene depicts the moment after the birth of Jesus Christ when the three magi, wise men or kings – depending on cultural context – find baby  Jesus by following the North star. Bearing the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worship, they go on to worship baby Jesus.

Paintings with biblical references such as this one were common in this era as the Catholic Church spent much of its funds on acquiring art and artifacts to decorate the Church and for ceremonial use.

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums, this painting was part a larger piece as is indicated by its similarity to 2 other works from the same period.

“Some scholars have suggested that all were part of a predella (lower register) narrative for the artist’s Roverella Altarpiece, commissioned for the church of San Giorgio in Ferrara, but the images do not correspond with an early description of that work.”

Other Details

Cosmè Tura’s The Adoration of the Magi is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2500. It is part of the museum’s collection of European Art, 13th–16th century – Art and Image in Europe.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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