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Da Pavia was fascinated by classical architecture and often depicted episodes from the Bible in lavish architectural settings. Here da Pavia has set the nativity scene not in a simple stable but in a ruined building of magnificent proportions. He demonstrates his understanding of Classical architecture, decorating the capital (adornment on top of the column shaft) with the acanthus, a popular botanical motif. The spiral design which he includes is known as a helix. Da Pavia leaves the design of the astragal (which links the capital to the column) as plain moulding. The story of the nativity is extremely popular in paintings of the period. Da Pavia has chosen to illustrate the kings giving their gifts to Jesus. Originally, Magi were astrologers at the Persian court.
The man kneeling in the foreground is most probably the patron, who commissioned this painting from the artist as an act of devotion.
The Adoration of the Magi with a Donor
oil & tempera on panel
H 258.3 x W 209.5 cm
bequeathed by the Founders, 1885