Hugo van der Goes

Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Hugo van der Goes
Painting, Oil on canvas, 96.3x109.2 cm
Origin: Netherlands, 15th century

Hugo van der Goes's altar triptych has many characteristics typical of 15th-century Netherlandish art: a naive and simple view of the visible world, an entertaining narrative quality, attention to detail, virtuoso skill in conveying texture, angular linear drawing and bright colour. In the left wing of the altarpiece, in the background, we see the meeting of the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. This is the symbol of the Union of the Old and New Testaments. In the foreground is the ritual of circumcision - forerunner of the christening ritual. In the central panel we see: top right - the annunciation of the birth of Christ to the shepherds and their adoration of the Child; in the background to the left - the meeting of the Magi on Calvary; in the centre is the Adoration of the Magi. The three Magi traditionally embodied not only three human ages, but also three parts of the world - Europe, Asia and Africa - and the three human races who recognised Christ to be King of Kings. The Magi brought three gifts: gold - emblem of Christ's majesty; frankincense - in honour of his divinity; and myrrh - hinting at Christ's sacrifice of himself for others. The right wing shows a dynamic and emotional scene of the Massacre of the Innocents, in which the soldiers of King Herod are seen robed in 15th-century armour, removing children from their helpless mothers and slaying them before their eyes.

Personage: Christ
Style: Renaissance
Source of entry: Provenance: before 1797
Theme: The Bible and Christianity
Exibition: Netherlandish Art: 15th - early 17th centuries

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