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Sandro Botticelli: 'The Adoration of the Kings'

This is perhaps the 'tondo' mentioned by Vasari as in the Pucci family home in 1568. The shape of the tondo may have evolved from the 'desco da parto', a painted plate presented to a mother after childbirth. The challenge of the tondo is to create a coherent composition in a circular space. This is a stimulus to centralise the composition.

Botticelli is among the first artists to centralise the subject of the Adoration. It had usually been represented as a flow across the picture plane, as in Botticelli's own earlier 'Adoration', also in the Collection.

The story of the Three Kings (or Magi) had great appeal in 15th-century Florence and a confraternity of the Magi was attached to the church of San Marco there. It celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany with spectacular processions about the city. The Pucci family, who may have commissioned this picture, were supporters of the ruling Medici and probably chose the subject of the Adoration because of its association with them. Cosimo de' Medici had his own cell in San Marco, decorated with a fresco of the Adoration, and in the Medici palace chapel, portraits of the family and their allies are placed in the retinue of the Kings.


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