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Dosso Dossi, The Adoration of the Kings

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Kings
Artist Dosso Dossi
Artist dates about 1486 - 1542
Date made about 1527-9
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 85.1 × 108 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3924
Location Room 10
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Kings
Dosso Dossi

Unusually, Dosso has set the Adoration of the Kings at night, which provided opportunities for the flickering brushwork for which he is noted. The huge harvest moon with a pink aureole, traversed by storm clouds, casts a mysterious golden light that picks out features of the fortified town in the background.

On the left-hand side of the scene is what looks like a cave, but is in fact architecture covered by vegetation. This is the artist’s version of the ruined arch – a common symbol in scenes of the Nativity, representing the decline of the old and the coming of a new age. The dramatic moon gives the scene a portentous feel; at the time the painting was made, such meterological effects were frequently interpreted as carrying meaning or presaging important events.

This picture was probably painted in Ferrara, where the artist worked for the court of the ruling Este family.

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