Supported by his mother, the tiny child rests a hand on the head of the king kneeling before him, who respectfully kisses his foot. The Adoration of the Magi, a scene so often depicted, has rarely been treated with such humanity and sumptuousness. Mary and Joseph have taken refuge in a cave laid out as a stable, with a wood and brick shed in the background. The humble straw-lined cradle contrasts with the magnificence of the fluted cup filled with gold coins and the dazzling costumes of the visitors from afar: rich cloaks garnished with fur, a shining gold tunic, brocades and damask. Positioned on the same oblique line, the kings probably represent the three ages of life. Beside them, servants present royal offerings. In the background, soldiers and onlookers packed into too small a space form a group expressing a variety of feelings. A very young boy, lost in shadow amid the crowd, carries the myrrh and looks at us. With its vivid colors, the effects of the materials, and a dense composition based on diagonals and arabesques linking characters and planes, this work by Rubens is inspired by the Baroque. The Flemish artist portrayed this subject many times. This picture, dated about 1617–1618, was probably intended for a private collection because its horizontal format makes it hard to imagine it being designed to adorn an altar. It earned the artist a considerable fortune, having been reproduced in engravings and tapestries


  • Title: Adoration of the Magi
  • Creator: Pierre-Paul Rubens
  • Date Created: 1617
  • Physical Dimensions: H. 251 ; W.328 cm
  • Provenance: Sent by the French state
  • Rights: Image © Lyon MBA - Photo Gilles Alonso
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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