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The Adoration of the Magi

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    early 16th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Master of the Louvre Madonna (painted by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on linen

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John M. Parsons

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS, case R, shelf 5, box R

Physical description

The Virgin stands before a golden cloth of honour and holds the Christ Child out towards King Caspar who kneels before them proferring a vessel of gold coins; the turbaned King Balthasar at left and King Melchior stands at the centre looking out towards the viewer


early 16th century (painted)


Master of the Louvre Madonna (painted by)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on linen


Height: 31.7 cm approx., Width: 24 cm approx.

Object history note

Bequeathed by John M. Parsons, 1870

Historical significance: As told in Matthew 2, after the birth of Christ, the Magi came from the East, following a star, to seek the king of the Jews. The eldest king, Caspar, kneels at the Virgin's feet and proffers his gold offering behind him, Melchior and Balthazar in rich garb and elaborate headdress revealing their eastern origins, clasp their offerings of frankincense and myrrh. 535-1870 is in particularly poor condition, little of the 16th century painting remains and the whole is greatly repainted. The unusual composition suggests that it originally formed part of a larger painting which was subsequently cut down. The Virgin and Child are very like the works by the so-called 'Master of the Louvre Madonna' painted in Antwerp in the first third of the 16th century (Louvre, R.F.46 and Christie's London, Nov. 2, 2001) both painted on tempera (or distemper) on canvas or linen and of comparable dimensions.

Historical context note

History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, particularly developed in the second half of the 17th century in the Netherlands. Although, history painting began in the Netherlands in the late 15 and early 16th centuries with such artists as Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), Jan Mostaert (ca. 1475-1555) and Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533), it had long been overshadowed by the genre imagery. Dutch artists' new interest in naturalism transformed distant history paintings into contemporary scenes of everyday life, resulting in classical and biblical scenes that take place in Dutch settings with contemporary costumes along with the introduction in these pictures of historicised portraits, portraits historiés.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'The Adoration of the Magi', Circle of the Master of the Louvre Madonna, Early 16th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 206, cat. no. 255.
Diane Wolfthal. The Beginnings of Netherlandish canvas painting, 1400-1530 Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Production Note

According to a handwritten note in the object file:
'Mr. H.I. Kay of the N.G. saw this picture in Aug. 1933 and regarded it asan original 16th century picture very much damaged and restored.
Sir Charles Holmes saw this picture in October 1933 , thougth it to be of great interst and suggested that it belonged to the Dutch School. He suggested comparing it with works of Lucas Van Leyden, Mostart, etc.Described as 'Netherlandish School, 16th century' by Kauffmann in 1973, this work is very close to images of the Virgin painted by the so-called 'Master of the Louvre Madonna' in the first third of the 16th century.'

More recently, Suzanne Laemers has convincingly compared the representation of the Virgin with those by the so-called 'Master of the Louvre Madonna' (written opinion, April 2010)


Oil paint; Linen


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Gold; Turbans


Paintings; Christianity; Black History


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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