(b. ca. 1420, Firenze, d. 1497, Pistoia)
Adoration of the Magi1440-41
Convento di San Marco, Florence
Benozzo Gozzoli was a student of Fra Angelico who had a formative influence on him. He collaborated in the pictorial decoration of the dormitory cells in the Florentine Dominican monastery of San Marco, which took place from 1438 to 1444/45. There Fra Angelico and his assistants were painting a small devotional fresco in each cell, while Cosimo de' Medici's double cell (cell 38/39) was furnished with a larger wall painting, the Adoration of the Magi (cell 39) and a Crucifixion with Saints Cosmas, Damian, John and Peter (cell 38, the vestibule). The complete integration of the youthful Benozzo's artistic style with that of Fra Angelico has meant that it is only in recent times that it has been possible to identify with a fair degree of accuracy a variety of interventions by his hand, which were first limited to isolated figures or group of figures. Later he had more responsibility and scholars now agree that he was almost exclusively responsible for the decoration of Cosimo de' Medici's cells.
Gozzoli's decisive part in the production of the Adoration of the Magi can be recognised stylistically by the fact that, compared t the works of his teacher, the colours are softer, the plasticity of forms is reduced in favour of sharper contours, and the landscape in the background acts as a backdrop. Here the religious theme of the Epiphany is set in a bleak rocky landscape which rises up behind the Three Kings' retinue. This corresponds to the religious mood of Fra Angelico's pictures and does justice to the fresco's function as a devotional picture.