Three wise men, or magi, from the East are described in the Gospels as having seen a new star and journeyed to pay tribute to the child marked as divine by the heavens. The wise men were often depicted as kings, and, by the Renaissance, the youngest was frequently depicted as an African, here holding a gold vessel containing myrrh, a precious resin from Arabia and Africa used for perfume. His portrayal reflects both the ethnic diversity encountered by Renaissance painters in a port like Venice, frequented by African traders, and also the concept of Christ’s promise of salvation for all people. The splendor of the kings contrasts with the simplicity of the Holy Family. Chubby little angels sing the words inscribed on the scroll “Glory to God in Heaven and Peace to Men on Earth,” accompanied by others playing flutes and a violin. For more information on this painting, please see Federico Zeri’s 1976 catalogue no. 276, pp. 403-404. Learn more about this object in our art site:

Walters Art Museum Art of the Day pick: Girolamo da Santacroce (d. 1556)

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