The Holy Family is visited by the three kings, who have journeyed to adore the newborn king. The painting is filled with naturalistic details, as the riders struggle to keep the horses and mules still and a small dog urinates on a beam. Yet there are also references to antiquity, such as the horse's bent leg and the bowed head, which recall Roman sarcophagi. The CMA purchased the Adoration of the Magi in 1957 and three other versions by Titian exist, in the Ambrosiana in Milan and the Prado and Escorial in Madrid. Different from the other versions in numerous ways, the Cleveland version is the only one, for example, which includes a sunset.
One of the four versions of Adoration of the Magi is said to be a copy made by Titian for Cardinal Ippolito of Florence, although the debate continues over which version is the copy. Partly for this reason, the Cleveland work has been attributed to both Titian and his workshop, as the workshops of artists often assisted in producing copies of works.
Titian spent his whole life in Venice and his works exhibit Venetian qualities of color and light. Today, the bright colors in the costumes of the figures and in the sky have become dull and dark from age. Only through close examination can glimpses of the original pinkness of the sky be recognized. The underpainting of this work is visible, possibly due to age, damage, or because it was left unfinished by the artist.
Ana Dieglio 2008