The Adoration of the Kings

Giovanni Belliniabout 1475-80

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London
London, United Kingdom

The Three Kings journeyed to Bethlehem to honour the new-born Jesus. They followed a star (towards the left, at the top), and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. New Testament (Matthew 2: 2-12). The accompanying figures to the right are the kings' retinue. The figure on the left, perhaps in penitential garb, might be the donor.The retinue of the kings is striking for the Oriental costumes that are depicted. This has been related to Giovanni Bellini's brother Gentile's visit to Constantinople in 1479-81.

The painting, very damaged and much darkened, is distinctive in its interpretation of the story.

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  • Title: The Adoration of the Kings
  • Creator: Workshop of Giovanni Bellini
  • Date Created: about 1475-80
  • Physical Dimensions: 109.9 x 208.9 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • School: Italian (Venetian)
  • More Info: Explore the National Gallery’s paintings online
  • Inventory number: NG3098
  • Artist Dates: active about 1459; died 1516
  • Artist Biography: Bellini was one of the most influential Venetian artists. He lived and worked in Venice all his life; his career spanned 65 years. He is celebrated for his pioneering portrayal of natural light, seen in such works as 'The Agony in the Garden', for his tender and graceful pictures of the Virgin and for his altarpieces. Dürer, in Venice in about 1506, wrote that Giovanni 'is very old and yet he is the best painter of all'.Giovanni Bellini was born into the leading dynasty of Venetian painters. He seems to have been the younger brother of Gentile Bellini. His development was first shaped by his father, Jacopo. His brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna also influenced early works, such as 'The Blood of the Redeemer' and 'The Agony in the Garden'. The visit of Antonello da Messina to Venice in 1475-6 may also have influenced him.Many signed paintings survive, as well as a number of workshop productions, including works on this screen. 'The Assassination of Saint Peter Martyr' is now thought to be by him rather than by his workshop. In his old age Bellini executed a few secular narrative paintings, of which the greatest is 'The Feast of the Gods', later modified by Titian.
  • Acquisition Credit: Layard Bequest, 1916