It’s rather early for Magi, but we* here at Clamorous Voice Towers refuse to be bound by convention. When this painting was sold at Christie’s on 18 April 1985, it cost £8,100,000, making it (at the time) the most expensive painting in the world. The artist, Andrea Mantegna (c. 1430-1506) was born near Padua, married into the Venetian Bellini family, and received his first important commissions to paint frescoes for Padua’s Eremitani Chapel. However, he spent much of his working life in Mantua, including several years as court artist there. The Gonzaga (Mantua’s rulers) knighted him in 1484.
The painting dates from about 1600, and is distemper on linen; a closer view of where the linen has become visible through the paint is visible here. You can see Adoration of the Magi at the Getty Center, Los Angeles – or, indeed, online, which is why digitization matters.
*Obviously, Clamorous Voice Towers is nothing more than my mind palace.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.