Thursday, August 25, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words / Well Said: Three Kings in the New World

Adoration of the Kings, Diego de la Puente
Around 1650 Diego de la Puente, a Flemish-born Jesuit priest and painter working in Peru, created an altarpiece of the Adoration of the Kings specifically designed to allow the local congregation in the Jesuit church in Juli to find their place in the story. ...

Balthazar the Spaniard presents a case of Spanish gold coins. The black Gaspar offers myrrh. But it is the native Indian King Melchior who brings frankincense, the offering due to a god. And there can be no doubt that this king comes from Titicaca — he and his retinue are shown in front of one of the sacred mountains of Juli. They have the characteristic facial features of the Aymara people that can still be seen in the streets of the town. The king himself wears the headdress, fringe and costume of a local chieftain — who thus leads his people freely, long before their conquest by Europeans, from idolatry to the worship of the one true God.

Matthew's Magi have come a long way. From the catacombs to Lake Titicaca, artists have shown them with Byzantine emperors, German Kings, Medici bankers and South American chieftains. Yet throughout all the evident political manipulations, the meaning of these representations of the Magi remains constant: they behold and proclaim the utter universality of Christ.
Seeing Salvation, Neil MacGregor

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