The Adoration of the Magi
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Simon Bening
Flemish, Bruges, about 1525 - 1530
Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
6 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.

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Although the Virgin and child sit humbly on a carpet on the ground, the red cloth canopy defines the area where they sit as royal. The three Magi, traditionally described as kings from the East, approach the newborn Christ with sumptuous gifts. Despite their fine clothing, the kings pay homage to Christ by kneeling or bending down to kiss the infant's feet. The base of the large classical column in the foreground and the beautiful pearls painted as if set into the surrounding frame further lend the scene a regal sense appropriate to the theme of rulers visiting a new and mightier king. Through such imagery, Simon Bening evoked the power of humility, a concept at the core of the Adoration of the Magi story.