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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

The Gospel of Matthew records how three wise men or Magi came from the East to present gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Christ, guided by a miraculous star. Later traditions transformed them into the Three Kings shown here.

Originally this panel had an embattled top and there are traces of green paint and a pattern of daisies.

Physical description

The panel originally had an embattled top, details of which show above the canopy over the bed. The Virgin, haloed and wearing a fillet on her head, a tight-fitting gown and a cloak is sitting up on a bed to the left of the panel, under a canopy. She has a cushion behind her and holds the naked figure of the Christ Child who sits on her lap, his left foot resting in her right hand. The Child rests his right hand on the Virgin's shoulder and his left on the cup held in the right hand of a bearded king. The king Gaspar, who wears a gown and cloak and holds a crown in his left hand, kneels looking up at the child. The figure of a second king (head missing), wearing a low-belted tunic, a tippet and cloak, and carrying a similar cup, stands behind him. Next to him, the figure of the third king, wearing a gown, holds a cup in his left hand and points with his right hand, presumably to the star (missing) over the bed. The bearded St. Joseph, wearing a gown and hood, sits in the bottom left of the panel. He holds a cross-staff with his right hand between his knees; his left hand rests on the neck of the ass, who feeds with the ox from a wicker manger.

The whole of the top right-hand corner of the panel is missing. Green paint and the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground at the bottom of the panel. Traces of red paint remain on the garments of the figures and on Joseph's shoes. Blue, now darkened, colours the Virgin's halo. Some gilt remains on the upper background and there are the remains of gesso knobs. There are three holes filled with lead in the back of the panel.

Place of Origin

England (made)


second half 15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster


Height: 38.8 cm, Width: 25.8 cm

Object history note

In the possession of P. Nelson from whom it was acquired by Dr W.L. Hildburgh. On loan from him since 1926. Given by Dr Hildburgh in 1946.

Descriptive line

Panel, alabaster, the Adoration of the Magi, England, second half of 15th century.

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 181 (cat. 108), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0


Alabaster; Paint; Gilt


Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Canopy; Gown; Crown; Cloak; Cup; Ox; Halo; Staff; Tippet; Ass; Tunic; Bed; Cushion; Hood


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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