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Not currently on display at the V&A

Adoration of the Magi

Panel
second half 15th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.

The ox and ass were traditionally included in images in reference to Isaiah's prophesy, 'The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved, painted and gilt alabaster
Brief Description
Alabaster panel depicting the Adoration of the Magi. English, second half of 15th century.
Physical Description
The Virgin, haloed and wearing a fillet on her head, a tight-fitting gown and a cloak, sits up on a bed on the right of the panel, under a canopy, with two cushions behind her. She looks down at the naked figure of the Christ Child whom she holds sitting on her lap. His right hand is raised in blessing, his left reaches to touch the gold coins in a chalice-like cup held in the left hand of Gaspar, who has a curly beard. He wears a tippet and gown and kneels on his left leg at the foot of the bed, a crown held in his right hand. The crowned and beardless Balthasar, wearing a tippet and gown stands behind him, his head inclined to the right, holding a similar cup with a lid in his right hand. He points with his left hand towards the star carved on the bed canopy. The crowned and bearded Melchior, the third king, wears a belted gown, tippet and cloak and, holding a boat-shaped container in his left hand, looks back at him, his right hand outstretched, pointing towards the star. The bearded St. Joseph, wearing a gown and hood, sits asleep on the ground in the lower right of the panel, resting his head on his hand, supported by a cross-staff, held between his knees by his left hand. The ox and the ass are feeding from a wicker manger next to him.



The top centre and the top corners of the panel are chipped. There is a hole through the panel near the Virgin's halo. The panel is cracked across the top right corner. Green paint and the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground at the bottom of the panel. Gilding remains on the figures, especially on the hair and fillet of the Virgin, on the star and on the crowns of the three Magi. The Virgin's halo is painted red; folds in the garments of the figures are also red. The ox is a reddish-brown colour; the ass is greyish. The top background of the panel is gilt.



The back of the panel is marked with three parallel lines crossed by a diagonal line. There are four lead-plugged holes, two bearing traces of latten wires. The bottom has been cut away.
Dimensions
  • Height: 41.7cm
  • Width: 26cm
From Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters, 1984.
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
3 parallel lines crossed by a diagonal line. (On the back of the panel.; incising)
Credit line
Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA
Object history
Formerly in Spain. 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.



Historical significance: This panel is a mirror-image of the usual composition, the Virgin normally being seated on the left of the panel.
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.



The ox and ass were traditionally included in images in reference to Isaiah's prophesy, 'The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.'
Bibliographic References
  • Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 186 (cat. 113), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
  • Kauffmann, C.M., The Bible in British Art : 10th to 20th Centuries. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1977no. 29
Collection
Accession Number
A.97-1946

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record createdNovember 19, 2002
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