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Adoration of the Magi
16th Century
Antonio Allegri CORREGGIO
Born 1489 Italy, Died 1534
Adoration of the Magi
[L'Adorazione dei magi]
c 1517
oil on canvas
84 x 108 cm  [HxW]
Galleria Nazionale, Parma

Correggio must have painted the Adoration of the Magi in around 1517, shortly after his Four Saints altarpiece, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and not long before he executed the frescoes in the Camera di San Paolo, Parma. Although the complex, confident composition of the Adoration represents the beginning of his mature achievement, in other respects it remains a transitional work. While Correggio has looked to both Dürer and Leonardo for inspiration, he has done so in a relatively literal fashion: the result is that the reclining dog in the middle distance is quoted verbatim from the former’s celebrated engraving of St Eustace, and that the attitude of the black Magus is heavily indebted to the twisting attitude of the protagonist of the latter’s lost painting of Leda and the Swan. More generally, the bold compositional scheme and rich colouring are unusual within the context of Correggio’s earlier practice. The action is divided by a row of columns on the far left, which are partly obscured by an exuberant flight of cloudy cherubim. The Virgin and Child balance the rest of the figures, with Joseph and the three Magi to the fore, and a whole cast of exotics, and even some camels, bringing up the rear. As was customary, the Magi represent the three ages of Man, and their actions are arranged to suggest the three stages of adoration they will all go through.

David Ekserdjian

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