Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi 1459-60, is part of a cycle of frescoes in the Magi Chapel in the palace Medici Riccardo of Florence, Italy for the powerful rulers of Florence, the Medici family. A family that has influences in Italy even to this day.
Gozzoli (right) painted a cycle of pictures over three walls. The Journey of the Magi to Bethlehem, which I have on my tray, is on the Eastern Wall of the chapel, showing the procession of one of the three Magi on their way to Bethlehem to see the infant Jesus.
Typically for the time, religious themes were painted with family members in attendance, as if claiming ownership of this pivotal birth that divided history; taking the whole earth from BC to AD.
Traveling through the Tuscan landscape we see some of the Medici family, important colleagues and others – who arrived in Florence for the Council of Florence (1438-1439 several decades earlier) all clad in their fineries, as a show of power.
Caspar, the youngest Magus…
leads the procession on a white horse.
Closely following Caspar is the contemporary head of the family, Piero the Gouty, on a white horse and devout family founder Cosimo on a humble donkey.
Further back we see Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta lord of Rimini and Galeazzo Maria Sforza, lord of Milan guests of the Medici at the time the frescoes were painted.
After them is a procession of eminent Florentines, such as the humanists Marsilio Ficino and the Pulci brothers, members of the Art Guilds and Benozzo, the painter himself. He looks out at the viewer, a scroll can be seen on his red hat, as he reads Opus Benotii.
Little Lorenzo il Magnifico is the boy directly below him with the distinctive snub nose; Lorenzo’s elder brother Giuliano next to him.
(Gozzoli’s patron, Piero de’ Medici, felt some of the seraphim were unsuitable, and wanted them painted over. Although the artist agreed to do this, it was never actually done.)
How, you may ask, does this relate to me and my small, but vibrant life?
The answer…I love Byzantine and Early Renaissance schools of art which means I spot all sorts of novelty treasures. While out “window shopping” a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a tray with this very fresco printed on it.
There was never going to be a dispute as to whether I bought this tray or not. Initially, I couldn’t remember where I had seen this painting or who the artist was, but have the tray I would.
First, I thought it may have been Fra Angelico, though didn’t look quite like his work. After a little thought and a little Googling I remembered where I first saw the painting – Jeanne Kalogridis website and discovered who the painter was. No, it wasn’t Angelico, but one of his students Benozzo.
I remembered getting Jeanne’s Kalogridis’ book Painting Mona Lisa, for Christmas a few years ago. An enjoyable book on all accounts and certainly insight into the age and the power of the Medici family.
There are books a plenty that bring our distance past to life. My novel Son of Spain, now in one volume, on Amazon tells a story of Diego Velázquez, court painter to Phelipe IV Spain.
An enchanting Vermeer tale by Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring, is a worthy read.
The plastic tray, makes a very good everyday delight. We use it in the evening to sit our drippy chamomile tea pot and our after-dinner mugs. The dark hue of the sitting room lights, the rich colours of the painting and the relaxing drink all perfect Spirit, soul and body tonic to end a busy day.