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Adoration of the Magi

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    second half 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This panel is said to have come from the Abbey of Montier- en- Der, Haute Marne. It shows the Christ Child turning towards the eldest King, Caspar, who is offering a gift of old. The beardless Balthazar offers Frankincense and Melchior offers Myrrh.

Physical description

The Virgin, with a large halo and a fillet on her head, wears a tight-fitting gown and a cloak and is sitting up on a bed under a canopy, on the left of the panel. She has a cushion behind her and looks down at the Christ Child. He, wearing a robe, is kneeling on her lap, his left foot held by the Virgin, his right leg bent under his body. He twists at the waist to reach towards a present held in the right hand of the kneeling, bearded king. He, wearing a gown and cloak fastened by a brooch, kneels at the Virgin's feet, holding a crown in his left hand. The crowned and clean-shaven figure of a second king, wearing a tippet and a tunic with a low belt from which small bells hang, stands in the top right of the panel. (The bells are an unusual detail of dress.) In his right hand he doubtless held a present; his left hand is held in front of him. The crowned and bearded figure of the third king, wearing a cloak, points at the star carved on the canopy and looks back at the second king; in his right hand he holds a present in the shape of a ship. The bearded, diminutive figure of Joseph, wearing a gown and a tippet, sits asleep in a chair in the bottom left of the panel, resting his head on his right hand. He is shown aged and weary, with a staff in his left hand. The ox and the ass are also included.

There is a damaged area in the middle of the panel on and round the Child's left hand. His right arm is completely missing. The top of the panel is chipped. The top of Joseph's staff is broken away. Balthasar's right arm is missing.

Rather 'scrubbed'-looking green paint and the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground at the bottom of the panel. Gilt remains on the Virgin's hair and on the crowns of the three Magi. The cushion behind the Virgin is painted green and overpainted in white with a squared geometric design. Almost the whole of the back of the panel has been strengthened with plaster. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)


second half 15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster


Height: 41.8 cm, Width: 27.4 cm

Object history note

Acquired by Dr W. L. Hildburgh in Paris. Said to have come from the Abbey of Montier-en-Der, Haute Marne. On loan from Dr Hildburgh since 1921 and given by him in 1946.

Historical significance: The panel is similar in design to one which forms part of a Virgin altarpiece in the church of Montréal, Yonne, Burgundy, and to one in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Ghent, although the pose of the child is not repeated. There are over one hundred other recorded examples of the subject in English alabaster.

Descriptive line

Alabaster panel depicting the Adoration of the Magi. English, second half of 15th century.

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 180 (cat. 107), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
Hildburgh, W.L. Notes on some English Medieval Alabaster Carvings. Antiquaries Journal. III, 1923, pp. 29-30, pl. VII, 2.


Alabaster; Paint; Gilt


Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Ass; Gown; Cushion; Ox; Bed; Canopy; Crown; Staff; Robe; Brooch; Star; Cloak; Halo; Bell; Tunic; Tippet


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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