The Coming of the Magi is one of the most sumptuous subjects in the sacred arts and many painters have excelled themselves in depicting the scene. In this version by Mantegna, the divinity of the Christ Child is paramount. The Infant, surrounded by angels and with the star directly above Him, acknowledges the obeisance of the Magi, the foreign, pagan astrologers. Is this, then, not the moment when God signalled His love and His plan for all the nations?
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death…. from The Coming of the Magi, TS Eliot