The “Dogmatic Sarcophagus”: Detail, the adoration of the Magi

First half of the 4th century
Stone sarcophagus
Museo Pio Cristiano, The Vatican, Rome

St. Joseph stands behind the Virgin, who is enthroned with the Christ Child on her lap, her feet resting on a low platform. This is how she will be pictured in thousands of "Madonna and Child" images in the ensuing centuries. In a touch of naturalism, the Christ Child reaches curiously for the first mage's gift. The Magi wear Phrygian caps to betoken their origin in the East. The first one points to a set of three circles on the upper border; one would expect a star.

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Photographed at the Museo Pio Cristiano by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.