Adoration of the Magi
Oil on canvas
Due to its historical and artistic importance, the work is subject to a notification preventing its export from Italy by the Italian State.
The biography of Matthias Stom, better known as Stomer, still has many obscure sides, starting with the date and place of his birth and death. What is certain is that he traveled extensively, following a route that at first, around 1630, was the canonical one from Holland (probably Utrecht) to Rome, and then became anomalous, from Rome to Sicily, transiting of course through Naples, not excluding a possible but still hypothetical late ascent to Lombardy, where his public works are preserved that can be dated to the middle of the century. Each of these passages left a trace in his painting, which, while drawing distantly from Caravaggio and more directly from Ter Bruggen, Baburen, Ribera and especially Honthorst, was powerfully personal and very recognizable. No less complex is the task of defining a chronology within his catalog, mainly because of the absolute dearth of dated works, but also because of the substantial absence of a clear evolutionary trajectory.
The superb painting presented here constitutes a truly distinctive example of Stom's predilection for nocturnal settings by artificial light, as well as his renowned virtuosity in the use of chiaroscuro and control of luministic effects, accompanied by the use of a rich and contrasting color palette. In the area of sacred painting Stom had far fewer opportunities to try his hand at the Adoration of the Magi than at the Adoration of the Shepherds, a subject among the most recurrent in his production. In our painting, too, his decided preference for very close half-figure compositions is confirmed, in which the protagonists in the foreground of the scene are invested by a light that has its radiating center in the group of the Madonna and Child, while the figures behind, in contrast, are immediately swallowed up by half-light and darkness. An artifice already experimented at length by Jacopo Bassano, which is linked to the symbolic value inherent in the dialectic between light and shadow and which Stom regularly adopts in his Adorations of the Shepherds. It is precisely with many of the latter that the most stringent comparisons are found within the painter's corpus: from the one in the Lichtenstein Museum in Vienna to the one in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, to the grandiose, full-figure one on deposit at the Regional Gallery of Sicily from the Municipality of Monreale.
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