Worldly Goods Made Intimate: Interpreting Andrea Mantegna’s Adoration of the Magi




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In 1985, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California purchased at auction a painting on canvas attributed to Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna. It sparked attention in the press as the most expensive painting purchase in the world to date, as well as for some scholarly criticism concerning the attribution of the work. Through vigorous conservation efforts by Andrea Rothe and the Getty Research Institute, The Adoration of the Magi was definitively attributed to Andrea Mantegna and the medium was established as distemper paint on linen canvas. From this point on, the painting has been the subject of much scholarly attention and questions have been raised about the patronage of the painting, the objects featured in the work, and the ethnicities of several key figures. Most scholars tend to suggest that the most likely patron is Isabella d’Este, due to her well-documented collections of objects similar to those painted into this work, and her marrying into the Gonzaga family of Mantua, who employed Andrea Mantegna for much of his career. This thesis uses these lines of questioning as a starting point to interpret how the artist meant for the painting to be viewed, and by whom. Through studying the mediums, size, compositional choices, and worldly people and things that make up this image – along with analysis of the collecting interests of his patron, Francesco II Gonzaga – this thesis suggests that Mantegna painted this work with Francesco in mind and intended to create an intimate and personalized portrayal of the moment of the Epiphany.



Art History