The Adoration of the Kings, um 1470/80
About the object
Originally, the oldest of the Three Kings knelt before the Child Jesus. A basket and the legs of the king behind now replace it. The stucco relief was made by the Strasbourg sculptor Niclaus Gerhaerts von Leyden. It belongs to a cycle of motifs from the life of Mary and the Passion of Christ.
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Joseph is coming out of a stable in the background, in front of which Maria sits. She is holding the playful Jesus Child in her lap. He is leaning to the left, where the most senior Magus originally knelt before him. The figure of the king has since been lost and has been replaced by a basket and the legs of the king standing behind in modern times. The two remaining Magi, attired in sumptuous garments and with magnificent crowns, present their gifts in golden vessels. The finely modelled stucco relief is an example of Upper Rhine art from the late-15th century. The composition, the somewhat artificial attitudes of the motifs and the ornate robes, recall etchings by the master E.S. and Martin Schongauer. In terms of style and periodicity, the work stands in the tradition of Niclaus Gerhaert of Leyden. His new conception for art significantly influenced the sculptural output of late-Gothic period. The relief belongs to a group of similarly-sized depictions of the Life of Mary and the Passion of Christ. These were mostly made in stucco, but also in clay and cartapesta (papier mâché) in workshops in the Upper Rhine region. The relief is the last surviving copy with a motif of this kind.