The Adoration of the Magi

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo1740s

Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum

"Adoration of the Magi," the largest etching plate by the Venetian Baroque artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, is unique among his graphic works because it is believed to represent a lost painting. The etching combines philosophical and physical links with classical antiquity, implied by the presence of the satyr vase and the fragmented classical relief, with a subject drawn from the New Testament revelation of Christ’s divinity. Here the latter is evident in the attitudes of the Magi and Joseph and in the star’s three rays, which may represent the Trinity. Tiepolo also transposed the style and technique of Rococo fresco decoration to etching. His leitmotif of the balanced, triangular figure group, with the Madonna and Child as the focus on the raised dais or platform, derives from decorative ceiling schemes. He counterbalanced areas of visual density with expanses of white paper. A variety of linear vocabulary, hooking, and parallel hatching subtly describes texture and form, light and dark. These traits, along with the signature, link the print to Tiepolo’s "Scherzi di Fantasia" series dating from the late 1740s.

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  • Title: The Adoration of the Magi
  • Creator: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, b.1696, d.1770)
  • Date Created: 1740s
  • Location: Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: platemark 15 7/8 x 11 1/2 in. (40.3 x 29.2 cm) on sheet 16 15/16 x 11 9/16 in. (43.1 x 29.4 cm), irregular
  • Credit Line: Bequest of Herbert Greer French
  • Alternate Title: Adoration of the Kings
  • Type: Print
  • Medium: Etching, 1st state of 4
  • Accession Number: 1943.404