Adoration of the Magi

Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi , (1423) Tempera on wood, 300 x 282 cm Galleria degli Uffizi.

Gentile da Fabriano, or Gentile di Niccola di Giovanni di Massio (c.1370 - c.1427) was born in or near Ancona in the Marche. The most sought-after and famous artist in Italy during the first quarter of the 15th century, he carried out major commissions in several Italian art centers and was recognized as one of the foremost artists of his day. Most of the work on which his great contemporary reputation was based has been destroyed, which may be why he is not more widely known today.

He first worked in Venice, but those early frescoes were destroyed. By 1422 he had joined the Florentine guild, and started a workshop. He is regarded as a leading exponent of the International Gothic style. His pictures are both elegant and stylish.

In 1423, for the sacristy of Santa Trinita in Florence, he painted his masterpiece, the Adoration of the Magi.  This narrative spectacle, commissioned by Palla Strozzi, is rich with sentiment, psychological observation, and delightful  animals.

The panel portrays the path of the three Magi, in several scenes starting in  the upper left corner with the voyage and the entrance into Bethlehem  and continues clockwise to the larger meeting with the Virgin Mary and the new born Jesus.  The figures wear splendid clothing, richly decorated with gold and precious stones inserted in the panel. Gentile's  attention for detail is  evident in the exotic animals (camels, apes, a lion and a leopard)  as well as the horses and a dog.

The frame is also a work of art, consisting of  three cusps with tondoes portraying Christ Blessing (center) and the Annunciation, which includes the Archangel Gabriel. The predella (a series of panels at the bottom of an altarpiece) which has three rectangular paintings with scenes of Jesus' childhood: the Nativity, the Flight to Egypt, and the Presentation at the Temple. Note: the original Presentation is now in the Louvre.


The figure between the donkey and the third king has been identified as the artist. The figure with the hawk has been identified as Palla Strozzi.

flight to egypt
The detail above is from the center predella, The Flight to Egypt. As the painting is almost 10 feet across, this might help put the painting in perspective.

Gentile da Fabriano died in 1427 while working on a fresco cycle in San Giovanni in Laterano.


ufizzi Ufizzi Musuem, Florence, Italy