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The Adoration of the Magi (Triptych) and Christ before Pilate (Verso)

attributed to Hieronymus Bosch ('s-Hertogenbosch, Brabant c. 1450 - 's-Hertogenbosch 1516)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1495 - circa 1500

Materials

Oil on panel (oak)

Measurements

Central panel: 914 x 724 mm (36 x 28 1/2 in) Wings: 883 x 289 mm (34 3/4 x 11 3/8)

Place of origin

Netherlands

Order this image

Collection

Upton House, Warwickshire (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Upton House, Midlands, National Trust

NT 446744

Caption

The central panel of this triptych, which is a version of that in the Prado, Madrid, shows the three Magi worshipping the new-born Christ child. The second king wears a chasuble, the collar of which is decorated with a scene showing the Queen of Sheba before Solomon (an Old Testament forerunner of the Adoration). Balthasar, the Moorish king, in white robes, carries an orb, also decorated with an Old Testament exemplar, the Three Heroes offering water to David. It has been suggested that the figure in the doorway is an Antichrist. He wears a metal turban of thorns, and a budding twig, symbolising Antichrist’s mutations of the life and passion of Christ and his trick of making a dead branch blossom. When closed, the wings display a central roundel with Christ before Pilate after the Flagellation. The surrounding areas show a scene with flying demons and a procession of fantastic figures.

Summary

Oil painting on oak panel (irregular shaped top), The Adoration of the Magi (Triptych) and Christ before Pilate (verso) attributed to Hieronymus Bosch ('s-Hertogenbosch, Brabant c. 1450 - 's-Hertogenbosch 1516), circa 1495 - 1500. Centre Panel: a gable of shed breaks the horizon and the incidents in the background less numerous and varied than in the Prado Epiphany. The Madonna and Child are isolated from the group of kings by the curved trunk of a tree. The second king wears a chasuble, the collar of which is decorated with a scene showing the Queen of Sheba before Solomon (a prototype of the Adoration). Balthasar, the Moorish king, in a white dalmatic, carries an orb again decorated with an exemplar of the Adoration, the Three Heroes offering water to David. The figure in the doorway, one of whose identities may be Antichrist, wears a metal turban of thorns and a budding twig, symbolizing Antichrist's mutation of the life and passion of Christ and his trick of making a dead branch blossom. The ass (symbolizing the old law) is seen unaccompanied by the ox (symbol of the new law) and thus the pagan world only is represented. The subject of Caspar's gift, lying at the feet of the Madonna, is unidentified and differs from its counterpart in the Prado picture. There is a pentimento along the left edge of the stable roof. Right Wing: The mounted retinue of the kings, carrying three lances with pennants, in a landscape with a conduit in the foreground. They look upwards as if at the star (not visible in the picture) while one of them kneels on the ground handling what appears to be a large portfolio. Left Wing: St Joseph kneels in the foreground gathering sticks and water, the Child's bath tub beside him; behind him is a ruined palace, with a table, bench and fire visible through an arcade, and the half-length statue of a prophet above the central column (Pentimenti in the circular tower of the palace, and in the form of a building in the landscape.) Verso: When closed the wings display a central roundel with Christ before Pilate after the Flagellation; Christ, wearing a robe and crown of thorns, is seen half-length on the left, handled by the executioners, with Pilate opposite him surrounded by heads in turbans and helmets; two of these seem to correspond with figures in the doorway of the stable in the centre panel. The surrounding areas are painted in grisaille and show a scene with demons flying in the air and a procession of fantastic figures, some mounted, hurrying along the ground to the left, where a gallows beset with demons is erected beside a cylindrical building.

Provenance

Henry Danby Seymour, 1854; by descent in the family; Miss Seymour sale, Knight Frank & Rutley, 17 January 1936, lot 324: bought by Robert Langton Douglas (1864 - 1951), from whom acquired by Lord Bearsted in September 1936, for £5,250; given with Upton House to the National Trust by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882 – 1948), in 1948, shortly before his death

Credit line

Upton House, The Bearsted Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

attributed to Hieronymus Bosch ('s-Hertogenbosch, Brabant c. 1450 - 's-Hertogenbosch 1516), artist

Exhibition history

Adoration, Het Noordbrabants Museum, 2018 - 2019 New Light on Old Masters, Squash Court Gallery, 2013 The Bearsted Collection, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1955, no.75

References

Waagen 1854-7 Gustav Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 3 vols. (translated by Lady Eastlake) with a supplementary volume: Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London, 1854-7, vol. II, p.243 Lafond, 1914: P.Lafond, Bosch, 1914, pp. 39, 111 Friedländer 1937 Max J. Friedländer, Die altniederländische malerei, 14 vols., Berlin and Leiden, 1924-37 (Early Netherlandish Painting, 1967-76), vol. XIV, pp.99-100, no.68; Tolnay, 1937: C. de Tolnay, Hieronymus Bosch, 1937, Appendix of Plates, nos.27-28); Sutton 1979 Denys Sutton, Robert Langton Douglas: Connoisseur of Art and Life', Apollo, June 1979, p.468 (separatum, p.186) & fig.21, p.457 (p.175).

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