E.1 Adoration of the Magi

E.1 Alberti, Adoration of the Magi, III

Engraving by Cherubino Alberti, 36.2 x 26.5 L + 2.3 margin below L to P (New York).

Three states, all with blank margin below:

I.  Inscribed bottom center: 1574.

II.  Inscribed with date, and at the bottom, toward the right, Alberti’s cipher.

III.  Inscribed with date and at lower left: Cum priulegio summi Pontificis / Rubeus florentinus inuen, and at lower right: Romae followed by Alberti’s cipher.

Fig.E.1 (State III, New York)

Heinecken, I, 1778, 95.  Bartsch, XVII, 1818, 54, 12 (State III only).  Le Blanc, 1854-1890, I, 8, 13.

COLLECTIONS: Berlin, 224-20; 225-20 (both III).  Florence, 1571ss (I).  Florence, Marucelliana, Vol. XIII, no. 35 (III).  London V,1.135 (II); 1874,0808.487 (III).  New York, 62.602.302 (III).  New York, William H. Schab, Catalogue 74 (1987), 32-33, no. 25, Fig. (III).  Paris, Arsenal, Vol. 168 (2), no. 66 (III) (see Schéfer below).  Paris, Ba 12, f. 5; Eb 13; RC 36f (all III).  Poughkeepsie, no. 864.1.432 (III).  Vienna, It.I.37, p.9; It.II.21, p.66 (both III).


Schéfer, 1894-1929, col. 555, no. 66.

Kusenberg, 1931, 157, 159, Pl. LXXXIX, 2 (Paris, Ba 12).

De Witt, 1938, 32.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 148-152, III, Fig. 73 (Paris, Ba 12).

Shearman, 1966, 171, n. 37, as possibly after the cartoon made for Domenico Alfani in Perugia in 1527.

Carroll, 1967, 299-302, Fig. 5 (Paris, Ba 12), as in reverse of Rosso’s cartoon made for Alfani in Perugia in the spring or summer of 1527.

Borea, 1980, 251-252, no. 633, as after Rosso’s cartoon for Alfani.

Buffa, IB, 34, 1982, 130 (London, III).

Carroll, 1987, 41, 144-146, no. 48, with Fig. (New York, III).

Carroll, 1989, 15, Fig. 28 (New York).

Franklin, 1994, 158-160, Pl. 159 (London, II), believed that the differences that can be found between Alberti’s print and the painting of different proportions that Alfani made from Rosso’s lost drawing are almost certainly due to the printmaker.

Alberti’s authorship of this print and Rosso’s authorship of its design have never been questioned, although Franklin questioned the fidelity of the engraving to Rosso’s lost drawing.  The engraving is based upon “un cartone di una tavola de’ Magi” that Rosso made for Domenico Alfani in Perugia shortly after the Sack of Rome in May of 1527 (see L.20).  Alberti’s engraving is in reverse of Rosso’s lost cartoon, as we know from the direction of Alfani’s painting (Fig.Alfani).  The cartoon was made in the late spring or summer of 1527.  According to Vasari, it was still owned by Domenico Alfani when the first edition of the Lives was written.  But by the time of the second edition, he had died.  His son, Orazio, lived until 1583, active as a painter in Perugia.  Alberti may have obtained Rosso’s “cartone” from him.

Franklin’s belief that the composition of the print was significantly altered by Alberti seems to me belied by the evidence of the print itself and by its relation to Alfani’s more square painting.  Simply removing from the print a strip of sky above and an even smaller strip below brings the two works into the same proportions.  These additions by Alberti may have been related to the size of the plate that Alberti had, as Franklin suggested, or to a wish by Alberti to make the scene in 1574 slightly more spacious.   This probably allowed for Alberti to add the star with its rays at the upper right, a detail that Franklin would give to Rosso as his only supernatural detail in the scene.  It is also possible that a very small amount was added to the composition at the left and right.  Otherwise, the scene is most likely very close to what Rosso invented, except that the engraving is in reverse.  Thus the print has almost the same fidelity as the Altar (Fig.E.4a) that Alberti engraved after Rosso’s surviving drawing (Fig.D.38a).  Alfani altered Rosso’s design in so many ways as to completely change its intrinsic iconographical meaning, especially in the placement of the Child on a block of stone, as though on an altar, and his being touched by both Mary and Joseph, the latter detail only in the print and one that Franklin pointed out as due to Rosso.  I would suspect that the very foreshortened kneeling and almost prostrate magus in the engraving was beyond the powers of Alfani to appreciate and probably to reproduce and hence that magus in the painting has a much simpler pose.