The Adoration Of The Magi, 1612-1614

The Adoration of the Magi (1)
The Adoration of the Magi, 1612-1614
Juan Bautista Maíno

On a recent trip to Madrid, I was fortunate to have to opportunity to visit the Museo del Prado, twice. On the first occasion, time wasn’t on my side. It was just before closing and I only had 45 minutes. I spent the majority of that transfixed on Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath, 1600.

The second trip was a bit more leisurely, and I was able to move at my own pace. Weaving in and out of the galleries, I arrived at what I felt was a divine moment. Before me hung The Adoration of the Magi, 1612-1614. Just then it donned on me that I had seen absolutely few if any, representations of people of color. I was immediately drawn to the exquisite depiction of Balthasar. He appeared as if he could have been a distant relative. Seldom have I been presented with an opportunity to see and feel a likeness of myself within the context of art history. Given the period for when this painting was created, I marveled at his swarthy skin, his broad nose, and his posture. His agency is his own as he stands erect before a Child Christ. He adorned himself in the finest of silks and linens. The marvelous contrast between his earthy and rich green toga and his Moorish complexion reminded me of a recent trending topic that highlighted the complementary nature of black skin and the olive-green hue. Some things just don’t change.

The question of why so few works were on view or even to exist still puzzled me. It clearly couldn’t have been a thing of technical ability. For a national museum with a collection that spans back to the XII century in a country whose history is so inextricably intertwined with the Moors, I find the exclusion to be quite significant……




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