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The Adoration of the Magi; Initial E: Sword Bearers
Master of the Brussels Initials (Italian, active about 1389 - 1410)
between 1389 and 1404
Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 33 x 24 cm (13 x 9 7/16 in.)
In a miniature of resplendent colors and sumptuous gold, the Virgin and baby Jesus welcome the three kings. The eldest king kneels in his fine robes, his crown on the ground as a gesture of humility, while the two other richly adorned kings confer behind. To the left, their attendants hold gifts of ceremonial objects, and above, the star that led the three kings along their journey twinkles in the sky. The miniature marks the introit to the mass said on Epiphany, the feast celebrating the visit of the three Magi to the Christ Child.
The representation of the Adoration of the Magi gave illuminators of this period the opportunity to indulge their taste for lavish, fashionable costumes and elaborate ceremonial objects reminiscent of court life. The gold trim of the kings' cloaks contrasts with the simpler clothing of the attendants. In the historiated initial below, two sword-bearers, one dressed in a stylish two-tone outfit, seem to look up into the scene above. The inclusion of such contemporary details and the opulent use of gold were hallmarks of the International style.