Teresa Dent of the GWCT chooses a glorious Renaissance masterpiece.
Teresa Dent on The Procession of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli
‘I first saw this in 1981 and again 35 years later. It was restored in 1992, so its colour is now even more sparkling and exquisite detail even more obvious. I love that Gozzoli painted real faces onto everyone in the procession, so it represents what was then a contemporary community.
‘To me, this is very evocative of the countryside. Every activity is underpinned by a community, whether it is shooting with its gathering of guns, gamekeepers, loaders, beaters, lunch-cookers and bed-makers; wildlife conservation with its group of working conservationists, volunteer ornithologists, scientists; or the farmers and farm workers. If it takes a village to bring up a child, it takes a community to look after the countryside and, in Gozzoli’s day, it took a community to paint a procession.’
Teresa Dent is CEO of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
Charlotte Mullins comments on The Procession of the Magi
The Procession of the Magi is a cycle of frescos that lines the ornate private chapel of the Medici Palace in Florence, Italy. The palace was designed by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, with the chapel on the first floor, ornamented by a gilded wooden ceiling and an inlaid marble floor. Benozzo Gozzoli painted the Magi processing towards the altar through a rugged landscape lined with slender stylised trees and leaping deer. The wise men are accompanied by hundreds of richly dressed courtiers and servants, as well as camels, dogs, horses, donkeys and even a pair of cheetahs with jewelled collars.
The Medici family ruled Florence and Gozzoli made sure to include many of them in the large retinue that accompanied the Magi. He may even have painted Lorenzo, the 10-year-old son of his patron Piero de’Medici, as the young king Caspar, resplendent in a rich tunic and riding a white horse, his gold spurs gleaming below red stockings. (He was later to be known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, partly on account of his own generous patronage of the Arts.)
Compared with other Renaissance frescos, which made scenes look as realistic as possible, Gozzoli’s seem more like tapestries or leaves from a medieval Book of Hours. His frescos were heavily influenced by International Gothic, where ornate detail and decoration take the place of naturalism and expression. Gentile da Fabriano’s Gothic Adoration of the Magi (1423) may have been a springboard into the style at the suggestion of Gozzoli’s patron Piero.
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