Adoration of the Magi, a limewood panel carving


British Museum

British Museum

This panel is likely to have formed the right wing of a much larger altarpiece. It has been suggested that it may have come from the altar of St Anne in the Chapel of the Virgin at Rotherburg ob der Tauber.

It was carved by Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531) one of the last generation of Gothic sculptors in southern Germany, who worked largely in Würzburg, Franconia. Riemenschneider and his workshop produced a large number of altarpieces in wood, but also made tombs and statues, and sometimes working in alabaster and limestone.

The intimate nature of this scene may be slightly misleading. It was adapted from an engraving by Martin Schongauer (about 1450-91) that shows the traditional, large entourage for the Magi. Since the third bearded figure, resting on his staff and positioned behind the Virgin Mary, is likely to be Joseph, Riemenschneider's Adoration probably extended to an adjacent panel. This would have contained the third king and developed the theatrical display normally associated with the Epiphany.

Wooden altarpieces at this time were often painted. Many of Riemenschneider's works were only varnished and this example lacks any traces of paint apart from around the eyes.

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  • Title: Adoration of the Magi, a limewood panel carving
  • Date Created: 1505/1510
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 1100.00mm; Width: 578.00mm; Depth: 90.00mm; Weight: 5840.00grains
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: relief
  • Subject: adoration of magi
  • Registration number: 1852,0327.10
  • Production place: Made in Germany
  • Producer: Made by Riemenschneider, Tilman. After Schongauer, Martin
  • Place: Found/Acquired St Anne's Altar
  • Period/culture: Late Medieval
  • Material: lime wood
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated through Murray, George. Donated by Crowe, Henry J