Adorazione dei Magi

Fifteenth-Century by Leonardo da Vinci
Uffizi, Florence

Adorazione dei Magi, The Adoration of the Magi, is interesting immediately because it is by Leonardo da Vinci. We have a lesser known work by a recognisable artist and what’s more it is unfinished, providing a wonderful visually-evident progression that allows an insight into the approach da Vinci took with his painting. It is intriguing to look at these sketched figures, half-finished ghosts, crowding the Virgin and child. The figures on the left are expressive purely for their linear features, as with an engraving, contrasting with the figures on the right, whose bodies are filled in. Their clothing and skin are filled with shadows, darkly painted, providing a deathly contrast to the warmth of the amber wash that dominates the painting. Of course this was not intended to be the finished effect, but that is no way diminishes the painting it gives us. The quality of the drawing is evident, and the orange glow, together with the architectural ruins in the background, give this painting a pleasing sense of archaic time, only encouraged by the figures whose changing depictions seem to evoke some sort of life cycle. This could be seen to be symbolised in the large central tree, whose solid body stands out in this painting of translucent beings. It is an eerie painting, the half-finished state contributing to the atmosphere; it would hardly be the same dense and complete.


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