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Carlo Dolci, The Adoration of the Kings

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Kings
Artist Carlo Dolci
Artist dates 1616 - 1686
Date made 1649
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 117 × 92 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1990
Inventory number NG6523
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Kings
Carlo Dolci

The Three Kings kneel before the Virgin Mary and infant Christ, presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is the finest and most complex of Dolci’s paintings of The Adoration of the Kings.

The painting is in superb condition: the richness of paint and refinement of detail are extraordinary. The Kings are dressed in sumptuous robes; their gifts appear gold but are executed in paint, while the haloes of the holy family are made of real (shell) gold, as is the light radiating from the Christ Child. They seem to glow in the darkness of the stable.

Through an opening on the right we can see the Kings' exotic retinue, including camels and more turbanned figures, and a mountainous landscape, evoking their long journey from the East. Peering round the door at far right is Dolci himself, wearing a red hat: his self portrait is recognisable from other paintings. An inscription on the reverse – in his own hand – tells us that the painting was commissioned in 1649, when Dolci was 33 years old.

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