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Adoration of the Magi

This particular image depicts the focus of January 6th in the liturgical calendar; the Epiphany. The painting by Rzeznik is rooted in traditional, late medieval representations. Though the Bible does not specify the number of Magi, three are represented because of the specific number of gifts which were brought. Other representations of the Adoration might contain upwards of six Magi.

The representation of the Magi as "Kings" was the product of the Christian writer Tertullian, who was the first to refer to them in this manner. In more traditional works, the men were dressed in Mithraic robes and Phrygian caps, symbolic of their roots as astrologers of the Persian court.

Here we see Caspar, the eldest, kneeling with the gift of gold, representing Jesus as King. Balthazar, represented as the Negro brings the gift of myrrh, a foreshadow of Christ's eventual death. Melchior, the youngest, presents his gift of frankincense as a representation of Christ's divinity. The three men are often depicted in a manner which represents the three known parts of the world during the medieval times; Europe, Asia and Africa. This would explain why Balthazar is represented as a Negro but it is difficult to determine which of the two would represent Asia, possibly Melchior considering his style of clothing.

The camel present in the background can be seen as a representation of Asia but is also symbolic of obedience. Mary again wears her traditional blue and red representative of love, however we now see the first representation of Joseph who wears brown and earthen tones represents humility and sometimes poverty.

In the background are other interesting pieces. The pillar is supported by a squared base. The circle (pillar) is often a representation of eternity and divinity as it is seen as perfect and complete. The square is a representation of earth. A square is solid and unmoveable, just as earth is. Here we can discern that divinity is meeting with earth; Christ.

There is also the presence of a ladder and rope. Both of these pieces are traditionally associated with the crucifixion and can be a symbol of what is to come in Christ's future. The pillar is also used in the flagellation of Christ.

Again, as with Gabriel in "The Annunciation," Balthazar is in a position similar to that of the Sign of Heaven and Earth.