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Relief depicting the Adoration of the Magi

10th Tiberius Auction

Lot 709 Auktion

Relief depicting the Adoration of the Magi

After Sale Price:  7.764

  • USD: 8.416 $
  • GBP: 6.648 £
USD: 8.416 $GBP: 6.648 £

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Rhineland/Southern Netherlands
Around 1500
Wooden relief carved & original, closed polychrome
43 x 42 cm, with frame 51 x 50 cm

This square relief depicting the Adoration of the Magi shows an aspect of Christ’s salvation story with many carefully added details. This pictorial theme was already depicted on ancient or early Christian sarcophagi and also enjoyed great popularity in the Middle Ages.
Mary, wrapped in a wide cloak with expansive, voluminous folds, is sitting in front of the entrance to a stable, with the naked child Jesus on her lap. He is held upright by his mother and opens a casket offered to him. In front of the Madonna are depicted the three wise men from the East in different costumes, who want to pay homage to the child. Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar are shown taller: the oldest, an old man with a long beard, kneels before the child and looks at Mary at eye level. The second, a youth without a beard and with short hair, is turned away from this central scene and has turned towards the third king, who is depicted as a “Moor”, apparently absorbed in conversation with him. Both have different, splendid gifts in their hands. The second king’s speech gesture – probably originally referring to the star – refers to the stables where Joseph is standing and feeding the ox and the donkey. The donkey, whose nostrils are just dipping into the feed bag, forms a playful moment in the otherwise respectful presentation.
The scene takes place at a doorstep, with the gable of the stables visually exaggerating the Holy Family. Behind the three wise men are visible the city gates through which they first entered. In the upper field of the picture, in the distance, shepherds are depicted driving their sheep through a hilly, rocky landscape or resting there. This probably refers to the good news about the birth of Christ, which the angel of the Lord has already brought to the shepherds. The relief panel probably comes from the side wing of an altar retable, where it was integrated into the biblical cycle. The lush and complex folds suggest a date of origin around 1500. The composition is strongly reminiscent of Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut from the Life of Mary with the same subject, which was created around 1503/04. A similar relief can also be found in the Württemberg State Museum (WLM 1963-8).

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