The Adoration of the Magi
Unknown artist, Netherlandish
The Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1510
Oil on wood panel
52.1 x 34.6 cm (20 1/2 x 13 5/8 inches)
Gift of Manton B. Metcalf 21.482
This small panel, intended to be viewed in a private chapel or domestic setting, depicts one of the most popular subjects for paintings made in Antwerp in the early 16th century: the three Magi presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Christ. Behind them an expansive landscape intimates their long journey. By 1510 many Antwerp painters specialized in the subject of the Magi, which was popular with the new, wealthy merchant class of the city for its emphasis on travel and rare and exotic goods. The artist highlights his skill at depicting luxurious fabrics (a prime commodity in the Antwerp market) and fantastic architectural forms. This and other panels like it signified a new direction for art making, the production of art on speculation rather than commission.