14th - 16th Century Gallery - Painting & Decorative Arts Level 1, NGV International
Commemorating the devotion of the Magi to the newly born Christ, the Epiphany, held on 6 January, was a feast of the highest doctrinal significance for Florentines of the Quattrocento – as witnessed by the splendid procession of the Festa dei Magi which occurred regularly until 1470. The Epiphany was an appealing topic for local artists which allowed them to depict the Magi in all their finery without violating the local sumptuary laws, which prohibited the portrayal of religious figures in a worldly vein. The pseudo-Kufic gold embroidery on the horse’s saddlecloth refers to the entourage’s links to the Holy Land. The decorative use of Arabic script by Italian Renaissance artists also reflects trade links with the Islamic world, and an appreciation of its refined visual traditions.