The Adoration of the Kings

Carlo Dolci1649

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London

This is the largest and the finest of Dolci's versions of this subject. The Three Kings, in opulent robes, kneel before the Virgin to present their gifts to the Christ Child on her knee, who blesses them in return. The Kings' gifts of gold are executed in paint, while the gold of the haloes of the holy family are in real (shell) gold, as is the light radiating from the Christ Child. The richness of paint and refinement of detail are extraordinary, particularly in the exotic garments and jewels worn by the Kings, and the sumptuousness of their robes enlivens the dark stable setting.

The painting is in superb condition and remains on its original canvas and stretcher. As an inscription on the reverse - in Dolci's own hand - testifies, the painting was commissioned from the artist in 1649 when he was 33 years old. The subject had a particular resonance for Dolci, as the artist's extensive inscriptions on the stretcher would indicate. He chose to include a self portrait and shows himself standing at the back, wearing a cap, partially visible through a doorway at the extreme right of the composition.

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  • Title: The Adoration of the Kings
  • Creator: Carlo Dolci
  • Date Created: 1649
  • Physical Dimensions: 117 x 92 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • School: Italian (Florentine)
  • Inventory number: NG6523
  • Artist Biography: Son of a tailor, Dolci was the most important Florentine painter of the 17th century. He entered the studio of Jacopo Vignali in about 1625, and his prodigious output secured him a high reputation from an early age. By the 1640s demand for his work had grown to such an extent that he often repeated compositions. There are several versions of the Gallery's 'Adoration of the Kings' for instance. Although most of his work is of religious subjects, he also painted portraits, including some sitters from England, where his reputation was high. Dolci was a meticulous and also a slow worker. His highly refined style differs greatly from that of other contemporary Italian painters, and may show the influence of the Dutch pictures to which he would have had access in the Medici collections.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bought, 1990


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