Sandro Botticelli, a Florentine, painted several versions of the theme of� the Adoration of the Magi. The Magi, or wise men, were particularly venerated in� Florence, as one of the city's leading religious confraternities was dedicated to� them. The members of the confraternity took part in pageants organized every five� years, when the journey to Bethlehem of the Magi and their retinue, often numbering� in the hundreds, was re-enacted through the streets of Florence.
The Washington Adoration was probably painted in Rome, where� Pope� Sixtus IV had called the artist to fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel, along� with other leading Florentine masters of the day. Botticelli's linear and decorative� Adoration is set in the ruin of a classical temple instead of a humble stable.� This setting emphasizes the belief that Christianity arose from the ruins of paganism,� and suggests a continuity between ancient and Christian philosophy.
Earlier Renaissance paintings of this theme, such as the Gallery's tondo by Fra� Angelico and Fra Lippi, emphasize the pomp and pageantry of the scene. As painted� by Botticelli in this late version, the religious aspect is stressed. Each figure� is an expression of piety, the postures of their hands and bodies revealing devotion,� reverence and contemplation on the divine mystery before them.