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Adoration of the Magi

Amico Aspertini, attributed (Bologna 1474c.-1552)

Late 15th Century
Oil on wood
57 x 44.8 cm
1912 no. 341

This small panel, commissioned by the Cetona branch of the Vitelli family from Città di Castello (as shown by the emblem painted in the two bottom corners) joined the Medici collections in 1675, when it was bought by Cardinal Leopoldo. For centuries, it was attributed to Pinturicchio or to the Umbrian School generically. However, after restoration in 1997, the theory was put forward that this is actually a work by Amico Aspertini, painted in Rome at the close of the 15th century. Like other paintings by the Bolognese artist, this Adoration shows great creative verve, characterized by a desire to try out new forms that could “change” the stylistic trends of the period, all focused on the slightly mechanical repeat of Raphaelesque manners. This is evident in the slim figures of the Wise Men, who present their gifts to the Holy Family, on the right-hand side of the painting. With their contemporary clothing, made in the richest of fabrics (velvets and silks in bright, almost iridescent colors), and with precious gold trims, they conclude a procession in which numerous elegant and noble personages take part.

Aspertini shows an original style that is also quite evident in the way he represents nature in the background. Indeed, he starts from the typical elements of Umbrian landscapes (slender, elongated trees with a dense foliage of minute leaves, and a pale light that gently blurs the contours in the background) to reinterpret them in an innovative manner, by giving, for example, more ruggedness and more chiaroscuro contrasts to the rocks that are almost an architectural backdrop to the procession in movement.


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