barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

Cosimo Rosselli (1439 – 1507)

The Adoration of the Infant Christ

Rome, about 1480

Tempera on wood

177.8 x 149.5 cm


This is the main panel of an altarpiece.  A complex group of figures is gathered within a beautiful landscape.  Three saints surround the infant Christ: Jerome with his chest bared; Francis in the grey habit; and Benedict in the dark robe. 

In the foreground, the three Magi with their gifts kneel in adoration.  Above, are God the Father and the dove which symbolises the Holy Spirit.  In the hills to the left, an angel appears to the shepherds.

The incomplete figure of Saint Joseph to the right indicates that the panel has been cut and reshaped.


Purchased 1965 (No.65.7)


During Black History Month 2018, this panel was the focus of an alternative interpretation by UoB students in English, Drama and American & Canadian studies. They produced labels which interrogated artworks in our collection which depict, refer to, or have been collected from people of colour. This was a collaboration with the Barber’s Learning & Engagement Team; artist and poet Dzifa Benson; and Dr Asha Rogers, Lecturer in Contemporary Postcolonial Literature.

Here is one alternative label below:



Baby Blue tinged kisses outline the space
As the scene converges into snow white,
The tip of the brush licking Mary’s face
Seductive, turning her ivory light.
Authenticity called into question
As the feather touch tickles the wise man
Each sweet note replaced with a hollow impression
Merging to become a single white man.
Alabaster dove sings of freedom,
The father son and spirit are one
Watching over the child who succeeds him
Now that the pure holy spirit has come.
Rosemary, roast potatoes and stuffing
Acceptance achieved, so we’ll keep bluffing.

Charlotte Igharo, BA English Literature.


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