Pieter Bruegel the Elder ca. 1520 – 1569

The Adoration of the Magi (Brussels)

tempera on canvas (124 × 169 cm) — 1556-62 Museum Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels

Pieter Bruegel the Elder biography

This work is linked to Matthew 2:11

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The three wise men bring their gifts to the infant Jesus, who is lying peacefully in Mary's arms. Joseph watches. To the right among the crowd are oriental-dressed people, perhaps belonging to the company of the sages. In the background are a few camels and even an elephant.

Armed soldiers stand in the crowd to the left. They may foreshadow the infanticide that king Herod was planning.

Pieter Bruegel made a few more paintings on the Adoration: in 1564 and in 1567. The attribution of this canvas to Bruegel is not undisputed.

The artist used a fine linen canvas, without applying an underlayer first. The tempera (water-based paint and egg yolk with pigments) was applied directly to the linen, a technique called glue-size. As a result, paint can also be seen on the back of the linen.

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