(active 1356-1389 in Siena)

Adoration of the Magi

Tempera on panel, 41 x 42 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

This Adoration of the Magi employs a conventional composition, however, it is also a good example of the evolution taking place in painting in the second half of the 14th century, especially in Italy, towards a closer imitation of nature, in a desire to represent reality. Thus, while the landscape is indicated in no more than conventional shorthand and is compositionally subordinate to the main scene, located in the immediate foreground, the artist has succeeded in creating a sense of real space between the figures, who are also depicted in more or less naturalistic proportion. This sense of three-dimensional space is achieved in the foreground through the arrangement of the Virgin's robe, the two angels on the right (who are modelled with great skill and harmony both in their colouring and volumes), and the empty spaces. We see a real ground and can appreciate how Joseph, situated in a second plane further back, contributes to the impression of depth.

The painting illustrates how, in their striving towards the imitation of nature along the path to the Renaissance, artists first conquered the representation of the human body. Since the primary aim of painting was still to relate stories, mainly religious ones, landscape and other elements of secondary importance served simply as the backdrop to the principal events.