Masaccio’s Adoration of the Magi is a popular Christian art theme dating back to the 2nd century. Completed in 1426, it is Masaccio’s first narrative religious painting and is remarkable for its concise portrayal. The painting uses linear perspective to create pictorial space, with the vanishing point at the child’s foot. Originally located above a representation of the Adoration of the Magi, in which one of the magi kisses Jesus’ foot, the work features crumbling architecture alluding to the end of the old pagan order brought about by Jesus’ birth, and a peacock suggesting the Resurrection and eternal life.
Commissioned by Palla Strozzi for his family’s chapel in the Florentine church of Santa Trinità, the Adoration of the Magi predella is now in the State Museum in Berlin, and would have been placed under the panel of the Virgin and Child, now in the National Gallery, London. The nudes standing on the walls of the painting remain mysterious. The painting also speaks to the global flow of goods at this time, visual transculturation, as well as the European conceptualization of non-European places and peoples.
Overall, Masaccio’s Adoration of the Magi is a masterpiece of religious art, using vibrant colors, religious symbolism, and linear perspective to create an evocative narrative. It is a testament to the skill and creativity of Masaccio, and an important contribution to the development of Western art. The painting has a rich history and continues to inspire artists and viewers alike to this day.