My Gifts of the Magi Triptych
the center is Mary and The Baby. I chose to use the orthodox
setting, rather than the Roman setting. In the orthodox setting
they use the cave as the place of birth. In the Roman tradition
it is in a stable, otherwise, the material is very similar. Also
included in this nativity are the three kings. On the far left
is the oldest of the kings, on the right panel is the middle-aged
king, and in the center, with the round glass orb, is the youngest
king. They symbolize old age, middle age, and youth. Very often
in the Italian paintings, everybody was in the foreground, often
with the artist himself painted, so I decided to include myself
with a beard and that is the fellow looking at you from under
the blue draperies.
a number of people viewing this are some of my old friends, who
are no longer alive. Above Mary and Child is God the Father
and, to the right, is a vignette of the Virgin in the temple,
which is part of the iconography of the period. There are, of
angels and angels without wings, which the Italians call "Putti".
and around all this I have tried to include all of the different
races of Man. There are Japanese, there are Africans, there are
people from the Middle East, and people from Native America.
the far right is Eve with the snake, coming down and around her.
The peacock is there because it symbolizes pride. In all
of these ancient paintings, people could not read so they knew
was going on from the symbolism.
also included a Viking ship sailing quietly in the background
and you can guess why. I also have a moon in the right panel.
The moon is a female face because, in Japan, the moon is feminine.
Instead of The Man in the Moon, they have The Woman in the Moon.
On the left panel is the world as seen from the moon. It is the
great blue marble that we have come to realize we live on. The
setting in this case is reminiscent of Italy except, in the center
panel is a mountain, not from Italy, but Mount Monadnock in New
Hampshire. I very often include mountains in my paintings because
I grew up with views of Mount Monadnock.
subject matter is a mix of traditional and modern symbols.
I chose to show the event happening in a cave, which
is the older
especially in the Orthodox churches. Each of the side panels
has a wise man, as does the center panel. The old magus from
in the left panel, then, in the center, the young magus presenting
the Orb (Kingship) and the middle aged magus in the right
panel. Mary and the child are the central point of the entire
Her Presentation at the temple is depicted over the opening
to the cave, where God the Father contemplates the sacrifice
and Lucifer is held at bay.
the old triptychs, the artists often depicted by standers, angels
and other supernumeraries.
They were often friends and
the artist. I chose to do this, but also added negative images
of devils and sinners, and positive ones of old friends and
that hold meaning to me and, of course, my dogs who are now
with God. However, the viewer is welcome to create his or
her own interpretation
of these events and will very probably see these images in
ways that I never imagined. This is the way of the visual
image. We each bring
something of ourselves to the visual table.
started with two drawings in 1978. These were exhibited in
Massachusetts and won an award. In 1980, I decided to
make a drawing for a center
panel in the traditional manner of Gothic and Renaissance
artists' triptychs. The subject matter is a mix of traditional
symbols. I had seen many examples during the year that
I studied in Italy in 1949 - 1950.
built three panels for a triptych and primed them in the traditional
glue size and
gesso. Then I made the under-painting
of the central
panel in burnt sienna and white. The panel remained in
state until I retired from full-time teaching in 1983,
and had moved to
New Hampshire in 1986, where I started the oil over-lay
color glazes, completing this in 1986. Finally, I painted
final color glazes for the two side panels. It was first
exhibited at the Twin Columns Gallery, in Claremont,
and in several other
galleries since then.
Thor Carlson, Christmas 2006.