This print—the largest etching created by Jacques Bellange, one of the greatest printmakers of the 17th century—is ambitious not only in size but also in its rhythmic, mannerist composition. In the center of this vortex of more than 30 elongated, exotically ornamented figures are the main protagonists: the Virgin Mary and Christ Child.
Bellange served as the court painter to the Duchy of Lorraine, an independent state for most of the period between 843 and 1739 located in present-day northeastern France. He was famous during his lifetime for his court paintings, but relatively few examples still exist, and today Bellange is known for his drawings and etchings. Prints achieve a wide distribution, which may have been his purpose in producing them.
Most of Bellange's etchings focus on religious subjects. This one is the second of two etchings he executed depicting the biblical subject of the Adoration of the Magi, in which the three wise men (bottom right) arrive to worship the newborn Christ Child, offering Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Shortly after completing the plate, Bellange made considerable alterations to the composition to remove a distant towered city crowned by a streaked sky and the guiding star.