Adoration of the Magi

This altar sits at the end of the right transept in the sanctuary of Santa Maria del Monte. The figures are made of wood and smaller than the life-sized figures in the chapels along the Via Sacra. They are usually dated to the third decade of the sixteenth century. The group was first attributed to Andrea Retondi (c. 1475 - 1547), who is also known as Andrea da Milano or Andrea da Saronno, in 1999. Since then, most experts have agreed on his authorship, pointing to the similarities between this group and Bernardino Luini's (c. 1480 - 1532) frescoes of the same subject (c. 1525) in the Santuario della Beata Vergine dei Miracoli at Saronno. The sculptor must have known Luini's paintings well, since he made two groups of wooden figures for the church himself: A Lamentation (1528 - 1530) and a Last Supper (1530 - 1534). These figures were restored at least four times in the last century. During one intervention, probably around 1901, three-dimensional stars were applied to the niche behind the Virgin and Child. In the intervention of 2003 - 2004 they were removed. One of the Magi's African pages, the small figure at far left, was stolen on the night of May 19, 1983 along with a similarly sized figure from the corresponding group across the church. Mario Rudelli (1938 - present) used a photograph of the lost figure to carve its replacement, which still stands on the altar today. The page's facial features are more caricatured than the Black Magus he serves. His garments are also more exoticized than the king, who wears European style clothes and has idealized features. The only other sculptural group of this subject at the Sacri Monti was designed by Gaudenzio Ferrari in Chapel Five at Varallo. Ferrari's terracotta figures (c. 1520 - 1530) also include a Magus and two attendants with dark skin and is roughly contemporary with this wooden group at Varese. The frescoes surrounding the group were painted by Giovanni Mauro delle Rovere (c. 1575 - c. 1640), who like his brother Giovanni Battista delle Rovere (1561 - 1627), was called Il Fiamminghino. Giovanni Mauro signed and dated his work 1632 in a nearby lunette of the Wedding at Cana. / The Sacro Monte sopra Varese is built on Mount Olona, also called Mount Vellate, which is believed to be the site of Saint Ambrose's final victory over an army of Arian heretics in the year 389. A church dedicated to the Madonna del Monte was erected on the site in the 10th century and rebuilt by the duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, in the late 15th century. Two local women established an Augustinian convent there in 1474 and, little more than a century later, another of their number proposed that a Sacro Monte be built leading up to the sanctuary. There are fourteen chapels and three monumental arches illustrating the mysteries of the rosary, preceded by a church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The final mystery is represented by the cult statue on the high altar, which is attributed to Saint Luke. The chapels were designed by Giuseppe Bernascone, il Mancino (1565 - 1627), an architect from Varese who trained with Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527 - 1596), or Pellegrino de' Pellegrini, and constructed quickly between 1605 and 1699. They are significantly larger than the chapels at any other Sacro Monte. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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