The Info List - Adoration Of The Magi

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The Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
or Adoration of the Kings is the name traditionally given to the subject in the Nativity of Jesus in art
Nativity of Jesus in art
in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus
by following a star, lay before him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. It is related in the Bible by Matthew 2:11: "On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path". Christian iconography has considerably expanded the bare account of the Biblical Magi
Biblical Magi
given in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew (2:1–22) and used it to press the point that Jesus
was recognized, from his earliest infancy, as king of the earth. The scene was often used to represent the Nativity, one of the most indispensable episodes in cycles of the Life of the Virgin
Life of the Virgin
as well as the Life of Christ. In the church calendar, the event is commemorated in Western Christianity as the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6). The Orthodox Church commemorates the Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
on the Feast of the Nativity (December 25). The term is anglicized from the Vulgate
Latin section title for this passage: A Magis adoratur.


1 History of the depiction 2 Treatments by individual artists 3 Gallery 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

History of the depiction[edit]

Adoration of the Child Jesus
by the three wise men or Magi; Sarcophagus
relief (4th century.), Vatican

Adoration by Jan Gossaert, c. 1510

Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
after Hieronymus Bosch

Dirk Bouts, 15th century

In the earliest depictions, the Magi are shown wearing Persian dress of trousers and Phrygian caps, usually in profile, advancing in step with their gifts held out before them. These images adapt Late Antique poses for barbarians submitting to an Emperor, and presenting golden wreaths, and indeed relate to images of tribute-bearers from various Mediterranean and ancient Near Eastern cultures going back many centuries. The earliest are from catacomb paintings and sarcophagus reliefs of the 4th century. Crowns are first seen in the 10th century, mostly in the West, where their dress had by that time lost any Oriental flavour in most cases.[1] The standard Byzantine depiction of the Nativity included the jorney or arrival of the mounted Magi in the background, but not them presenting thir gifts, until the post-Byzantine period, when the western depiction was often adapted to an icon style. Later Byzantine images often show small pill-box like hats, whose significance is disputed. The Magi are usually shown as the same age until about this period, but then the idea of depicting the three ages of man is introduced: a particularly beautiful example is seen on the façade of the cathedral of Orvieto. Occasionally from the 12th century, and very often in Northern Europe from the 15th, the Magi are also made to represent the three known parts of the world: Balthasar is very commonly cast as a young African or Moor, and old Caspar is given Oriental features or, more often, dress. Melchior represents Europe and middle age. From the 14th century onwards, large retinues are often shown, the gifts are contained in spectacular pieces of goldsmith work, and the Magi's clothes are given increasing attention.[1] By the 15th century, the Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
is often a bravura piece in which the artist can display their handling of complex, crowded scenes involving horses and camels, but also their rendering of varied textures: the silk, fur, jewels and gold of the Kings set against the wood of the stable, the straw of Jesus's manger and the rough clothing of Joseph and the shepherds. The scene often includes a fair diversity of animals as well: the ox and ass from the Nativity scene
Nativity scene
are usually there, but also the horses, camels, dogs, and falcons of the kings and their retinue, and sometimes other animals, such as birds in the rafters of the stable. From the 15th century onwards, the Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
is quite often conflated with the Adoration of the Shepherds
Adoration of the Shepherds
from the account in the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
(2:8–20), an opportunity to bring in yet more human and animal diversity; in some compositions (triptychs for example), the two scenes are contrasted or set as pendants to the central scene, usually a Nativity. The "adoration" of the Magi at the crib is the usual subject, but their arrival, called the "Procession of the Magi", is often shown in the distant background of a Nativity scene
Nativity scene
(usual in Byzantine icons), or as a separate subject, for example in the Magi Chapel
Magi Chapel
frescos by Benozzo Gozzoli
Benozzo Gozzoli
in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence. Other subjects include the Journey of the Magi, where they and perhaps their retinue are the only figures, usually shown following the Star of Bethlehem, and there are relatively uncommon scenes of their meeting with Herod and the Dream of the Magi. The usefulness of the subject to the Church and the technical challenges involved in representing it have made the Adoration of the Magi a favorite subject of Christian art: chiefly painting, but also sculpture and even music (as in Gian-Carlo Menotti's opera Amahl and the Night Visitors). The subject matter is also found in stained glass. The first figural stained glass window made in the United States is the "Adoration of the Magi" window located at Christ Church, Pelham, New York and designed in 1843 by the founder and first rector's son, William Jay Bolton. Treatments by individual artists[edit]

Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico
and Filippo Lippi, 15th century.

Many hundreds of artists have treated the subject. A partial list of those with articles follows. See also: Category:Adoration of the Magi in art.

Adoration of the Magi, Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico
and Filippo Lippi, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Hieronymus Bosch, Museo del Prado, Madrid Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
of 1475 (Botticelli), Botticelli: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Triptych
of the Virgin's Life, Dirk Bouts The Adoration of the Kings (Bruegel), National Gallery, London The Star of Bethlehem, Edward Burne-Jones, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Andrea della Robbia), Victoria and Albert Museum Saint Columba Altarpiece, Rogier van der Weyden, Alte Pinakothek, Munich Adoration of the Kings (Gerard David, London), National Gallery, London Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Dürer), Uffizi, Florence The Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Geertgen tot Sint Jans), Rijksmuseum Domenico Ghirlandaio, Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence The Adoration of the Kings (Gossaert), National Gallery, London Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Leonardo), Uffizi, Florence Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Lorenzo Monaco), Uffizi Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Gentile da Fabriano), Uffizi, Florence Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Mantegna), Uffizi Madonna and Child (Masaccio), Gemäldegalerie, Berlin Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Perugino), Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Rubens, Lyon), Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Rubens, Cambridge), King's College Chapel, Cambridge Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Rubens, Antwerp), Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Velázquez), Museo del Prado, Madrid Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Veronese), National Gallery, London Adoration of the Magi (tapestry)
Adoration of the Magi (tapestry)
by Morris and Co
Morris and Co
with Edward Burne-Jones


Mosaic, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome, by Pietro Cavallini, 13th century

di Bondone, 1320/25

Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel

14th century Flemish miniature

Saint-Thiébaut Church, Thann, around 1400

Nikolaus Obilman (1435–1488), c. 1466

Hans Memling, 1470

Jean Fouquet; one of the magi is King Charles VII of France

Botticelli, 1475

Navity Master of the Prado, 1475 and circa 1500

Giorgione, c. 1505

Jacopo Bassano, 1563-1564

Icon, Cretan School, early 17th century

Diego Velázquez, 1619

Rubens, Lyon, c. 1617–1618

Abraham Bloemaert, 1624

Pieter van Lint, 1630

Rubens, Cambridge, 1634

Rubens, Antwerp

Rembrandt, 1632

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century

Morris & Co. tapestry, 1888–1894

Fragment from medieval fresco, Kremikovtsi Monastery

Stained glass, St. Michael's Cathedral (Toronto)

Relief at the Dreikönigenhaus in Koblenz

See also[edit]

Roman Catholic Marian art Star of Bethlehem


^ a b Schiller, Gertrud; Seligman, Janet (1971). Iconography
of Christian Art, Vol. I: Christ's incarnation, childhood, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, works and miracles, (English translation from German), pp. 100–114 and figs. 245–298. London: Lund Humphries. OCLC 59999963

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Adoration of the Magi.

The Magi in Mosaics, Paintings and Sculpture "The Three Wise Men in Paintings" (more than 300)

Adoration of the Wise Men Life of Jesus: The Nativity

Preceded by Star of Bethlehem

   New Testament    Events

Followed by Flight into Egypt

v t e

Life of Jesus
in Christian art

Annunciation Nativity Adoration of the Magi Taking leave of his mother Transfiguration Last Supper Flagellation Ecce homo Descent from the Cross Lamentation Pietà Resurrection Road to Emmaus Ascension

Visual arts Christianity

v t e

Nativity of Jesus


Holy Family

Christ Child
Christ Child
(Jesus) Mary Joseph


Melchior Caspar Balthazar


Shepherds Herod the Great



Gifts of the Magi

Gold Frankincense Myrrh


Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 1 Matthew 1:18 Matthew 1:19 Matthew 1:20 Matthew 1:21 Matthew 1:22 Matthew 1:23 Matthew 1:24 Matthew 1:25 Matthew 2:11 Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(In art)

Gospel of Luke

Luke 2 Annunciation to the shepherds


Manger Star of Bethlehem Virgin birth of Jesus Saint Joseph's dreams Flight into Egypt

In art

village Kraków szopka Others


Advent Christmas Nativity displays