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The Adoration of the Magi with St Margaret and a Nun

Oil Painting
17th century (painted)
Artist/Maker

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 Child's feet, his gold offering visible on the step in the foreground, behind him, Melchior and Balthazar proffer their offerings of frankincense and myrrh. This unusual painting combines a traditional representation of the Adoration of the Magi in the style of the Flemish painter Gerard David (c. 1460-1523) of ca. 1500. The figure of Saint Margaret however evokes representations of the Saint by the so-called 'Master of the Legend of Saint Magdalen.' In contrast, the landscape is in the tradition of late sixteenth-century Netherlandish paintings while the small background figures who swagger about in early 17th century 'Cavalier' dress recall works by the Flemish painter Sebastiaen Vrancx (1573-1647). This combination of elements suggests that the work may be a pastiche with the various parts painted by different artists; the landscape may be a later addition.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on oak panel
Brief Description
Oil painting, 'The Adoration of the Magi with St Margaret and a Nun', Flemish School, 17th century
Physical Description
The Virgin, seated at the entrance to a classical structure, presents the Christ Child to the three magi, St. Margaret and a kneeling nun; behind them, cavaliers gather outside a small village set within a hilly landscape
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 66cm
  • Estimate width: 53.3cm
Dimensions taken from Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, C.M. Kauffmann, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1973
Style
Credit line
Bequeathed by John M. Parsons
Object history
Bequeathed by John M. Parsons, 1870



Historical significance: This unusual painting combines a traditional representation of the Adoration of the Magi in the style of the Flemish painter Gerard David (c. 1460-1523) such as the panel now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels dated ca. 1500, with a landscape in the tradition of late sixteenth-century Netherlandish painters and background figures who swagger about in early 17th century 'Cavalier' dress. Suzanne Laemers (written communication, April 2010) has connected these cavaliers with a type painted by the Flemish painter Sebastiaen Vrancx (1573-1647) and the figure of Saint Margaret with works by Master of the Legend of Saint Magdalen. This combination of elements suggests that the work may be a pastiche with the various parts painted by different artists; the landscape may be a later addition.
Historical context
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 histories.
Production
Catalogued as by Heemskerck at the Weyer sale in Cologne in 1862, the attribution was changed to Flemish School in 1893. In 1973 the panel was catalogued by Kauffmann as 'Netherlandish School' 16th century; however, the figures in the background are clearly wearing 17th century dress.

A handwritten note in the object file records that Mr. H.I. Kay of the N.G., who saw this in Aug 1933, was inclined to regard it as an original of the 16th cent.

The work was also examined by Sir Charles Holmes in October 1993 and suggested it was North German.

It was described by George Isarlov, February 1936 as 'a fake'
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceMatt.2:1ff
Summary
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 Child's feet, his gold offering visible on the step in the foreground, behind him, Melchior and Balthazar proffer their offerings of frankincense and myrrh. This unusual painting combines a traditional representation of the Adoration of the Magi in the style of the Flemish painter Gerard David (c. 1460-1523) of ca. 1500. The figure of Saint Margaret however evokes representations of the Saint by the so-called 'Master of the Legend of Saint Magdalen.' In contrast, the landscape is in the tradition of late sixteenth-century Netherlandish paintings while the small background figures who swagger about in early 17th century 'Cavalier' dress recall works by the Flemish painter Sebastiaen Vrancx (1573-1647). This combination of elements suggests that the work may be a pastiche with the various parts painted by different artists; the landscape may be a later addition.
Bibliographic Reference
Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 205, cat. no. 254
Collection
Accession Number
533-1870

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record createdMay 17, 2004
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