The Adoration of the Magi

Hieronymous Bosch was a late 15th-century painter whose work was noted for its imagination, realism and sense of satire. Bosch was highly successful in Spain. The monarchs themselves heard of his work, and did not hesitate to acquire a number of his paintings.

Most of his works are in the form of triptychs. As in all Flemish painting, the horizon line is very high, with small scenes painted in the background, almost like miniatures. Although the central theme is depicted in the traditional manner, with the Virgin Mary seated with the Child on her lap, and the Wise Men adoring Him, the picture contains some highly original details, such as the ruined appearance of the house, with a number of curious bystanders looking in; or the black King, who stands looking proud and majestic, and who had not been depicted in earlier periods. This type of dark skinned Wise King began to appear in art as an exotic feature, the result of the voyages of the Portuguese to Africa, from where they brought the idea of characters who were black. One of the gifts laid at the feet of the Virgin is a carving of the sacrifice of Isaac, symbolizing the martyrdom and death of Christ. Bosch was very fond of anecdotal details, and here, in the scene on the left, he shows us St. Joseph drying the baby’s nappies in front of the fire.

On either side of the altarpiece we see the kneeling donors, who paid for the painting, protected by their patron saints. On the left we can see St. Peter, easily recognizable thanks to his keys, and on the right is St. Ines.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns