Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Adoration of the Magi

Folio 52r

This painting and the preceding one were both added to the original manuscript. They face each other, giving the effect of a diptych.
Here the same figures as on the left-hand page have been gathered together and grouped at the right to worship the Infant Christ. Melchior has removed his strange diadem to come forward; prostrating himself, he kisses the feet of the Child who leans toward him and makes a sign of benediction above his forehead.
Behind him kneels Caspar, who also has removed his crown and is presenting the precious vase containing his gift of incense. Balthasar, likewise bareheaded and pressing his face against the earth, is on Caspar's left.
The kings's suite, including several Negroes, kneels behind their sovereigns while the rest of the procession, bearing the kings' banners, follows. The same exotic animals as on the facing page appear; a camel, whose head towers over the horses, and beside the kings three cheetahs like the one given by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, to the court of Burgundy where the artists had heen able to observe it.
The cheetahs are represented in natural positions: one smoothes its muzzle with a paw, another draws up on its front legs, looking at the Child.
The Virgin sits in the entrance of the open building, offering Jesus to Melchior; Joseph is at her left on one knee, and women kneel behind her. Beyond the wattled enclosure, shepherds whose homeliness contrasts with the elegance of the Magi and Mary and her attendants, regard the scene with curiosity.
In the sky the star of the wise men, surrounded by a heavenly choir, shines a single beam on the Virgin and Child. In the right background we see a town, no longer Paris but Bourges, the capital of Berry, with its Grosse Tour, its massive cathedral, and the spire of the Sainte-Chapelle.
This picturesque scene anticipates the paintings of Stefano da Zevio (1435) and Gentile da Fabriano (1423), two Italian masters of the International Style.
It must he emphasized that it was painted, and the Limbourgs had died, long before these artists executed their works.

small image (27KB) --- large image (276KB) --- The angels' choir (large) (236KB) --- The Virgin, the Child and Joseph (large) (265KB) --- The Magi offering gifts (large) (266KB)

Next folio --- Previous folio --- Return to index