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Adoration of the Magi

Accession Number
1963/2.44

Title
Adoration of the Magi

Artist(s)
Jan Erasmus Quellinus

Object Creation Date
1634-1715

Medium & Support
oil on paper mounted on canvas

Dimensions
20 1/2 in. x 24 3/4 in. x 2 5/8 in. ( 52.07 cm x 62.87 cm x 6.67 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28 2009
In this unfinished painted study Quellinus represents the three Magi who came to pay homage to the infant Jesus, an episode mentioned briefly in the Gospel of Matthew (2:11) but greatly embellished in art and legend over the centuries. Here the Magi, represented as kings in accord with long-established tradition, appear surmounting the steps of a grand building decorated with classical columns and pilasters in order to present their gifts to the Virgin and Child. The open brushwork, composition, and grand architectural setting reveal the influence of Venetian artists, the painter Paolo Veronese (1528–1588) in particular, whose work had a profound impact upon Quellinus when he visited Venice in 1660 and 1661. Quellinus returned to his home of Antwerp after his trip to Italy, where he established himself as a painter and, in 1662, married Cornelia Teniers, daughter of David Teniers the Younger, whose work hangs nearby. He enjoyed a successful career, even achieving the distinction of becoming court painter to the Habsburg emperor in 1680.

Subject matter
This painting depicts the three Magi who came to pay homage to the infant Christ, an episode mentioned only briefly in the Gospel of Matthew (2:11) but greatly embellished in art and legend over the centuries. Here the Magi, represented as kings in accord with long established tradition, appear on the steps of a grand building decorated with classical columns and pilasters. The foremost magus, the elderly Melchior, kneels before the Virgin and infant Christ, while Balthasar, sporting an exotic turban, stands behind him holding a smoking censer, a reference to the gifts of frankincense and myrrh given by the magi. The third magus, Caspar, stands at the bottom of the steps with his back toward the viewer.

Physical Description
This unfinished painted study depicts a crowd of figures gathered around three richly dressed men and a woman and child, who appear on a flight of stairs near the entrance to a large building decorated with classical columns and pilasters. An elderly bald man wearing a red cloak trimmed with ermine kneels with his head bowed at the top of the stairs before a kneeling woman who holds an infant in her right arm. Another man wearing a turban decorated with a large feather stands behind the kneeling man and holds a gold censer hanging from a chain in his left hand. A third richly dressed man stands at the bottom of the stairs with his back turned toward the viewer. A number of other figures crowd around this central group from the sides. A large ox sits in the right foreground with a donkey standing behind it.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Christianity
donkeys
kings (people)
magi (clergy)
oil sketches
oxen
turbans

5 Related Resources

Christian New Testament
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Families
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Orientalism
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display