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Carlo Dolci: 'The Adoration of the Kings'

This is the largest and the finest of Dolci's versions of this subject. The Three Kings, in opulent robes, kneel before the Virgin to present their gifts to the Christ Child on her knee, who blesses them in return. The Kings' gifts of gold are executed in paint, while the gold of the haloes of the holy family are in real (shell) gold, as is the light radiating from the Christ Child. The richness of paint and refinement of detail are extraordinary, particularly in the exotic garments and jewels worn by the Kings, and the sumptuousness of their robes enlivens the dark stable setting.

The painting is in superb condition and remains on its original canvas and stretcher. As an inscription on the reverse - in Dolci's own hand - testifies, the painting was commissioned from the artist in 1649 when he was 33 years old. The subject had a particular resonance for Dolci, as the artist's extensive inscriptions on the stretcher would indicate. He chose to include a self portrait and shows himself standing at the back, wearing a cap, partially visible through a doorway at the extreme right of the composition.


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