12 June 2013
THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI, miniature, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Italy, likely Monte Oliveto, 1530-35]
133 x 100 mm. In a rectangular frame of liquid gold on blue, the three Magi offer their gifts to the Christ Child seated on the Virgin's lap, St Joseph looking on; behind them stretches their retinue, with three men mounted on horseback; in the background an idyllic mountainous setting with a white castle set against the sky (some fraying to edges). Pasted down on card and framed.
The technique is charmingly meticulous and refined: the palette is a subtle contrast of muted washes for the skin tones, punctuated by touches of pink for the cheeks and lips, and vivid, vibrant hues for the robes, heightened with liquid gold. It is early work of the Sienese painter, illuminator and architect Bartolomeo Neroni (c.1505-1571). The composition depends on the altarpiece painted by his probable master, Sodoma, for the church of S. Agostino, Siena in 1530. He first adopted it in his earliest signed work, one of the 18 Antiphonals produced between 1531-2 at Monte Oliveto Maggiore, near Siena, for the Olivetan Abbey at Finalpia, near Genoa. In the present miniature Neroni offered his elegant reworking on an intimate scale suitable for private devotion.
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