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Rosselli, Cosimo (1439 - after 1506)
The Adoration of the Child JesusDate: c. 1480
Theme: New Testament
Technique: Oil on wood
Museum: Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Location: Birmingham, UK
Notes: The Adoration of the Child Jesus is thought to have formed the centre panel of such an altarpiece triptych, although the church in which it stood remains unknown.
Adoration scenes are not meant to be chronologically accurate but are often designed to present a devotional and narrative representation of highly complex theological subject matter. Rosselli has skilfully signified Christâ€™s life within the image of a celebration of his birth, in which we can clearly identify the Virgin Mary in blue adoring the baby Jesus who lies on a bundle of wheat. The latter prophesies the Eucharist and Christâ€™s Passion for mankind, as is also alluded to by the poignant aquilegia, flower of melancholy, which blooms in front of him. We can see the three Magi: Melchoir, Caspar, and Balthazar, who came bearing gifts at Christâ€™s birth. Together they represent the three ages of man and remind us of human mortality. Rosselli has also included Saint Jerome (on Maryâ€™s left), Saint Benedict (in black), and Saint Francis. God the Father looks down from Heaven, flanked by two floating angels and surrounded by a host of red-winged Seraphim, and blesses the group below as he directs the descending dove of the Holy Spirit. Various stages of the Nativity story unfold in the background, with the Annunciation to the shepherds seen to the left. The hierarchical symmetry seen in this work is characteristic of such late fifteenth-century Italian altarpieces.
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