Hugo van der Goes ca. 1440 – 1482

Adoration of the Magi

oil on panel (150 × 247 cm) — c. 1470/75 Museum Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin

Hugo van der Goes biography

This work is linked to Matthew 2:11

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This is the central part of an altarpiece. The wings are lost. Two stretches were removed from this panel, showing angels. The panel is known as the Monforte altarpiece, after the city in north-western Spain where it was kept many years.

The altarpiece is considered as an important work of the still young Hugo van der Goes. Most praised are its balanced composition and the high quality of the faces.

In the foreground, from left to right: Joseph, Mary with child, and the three wise men with their servants. The three magi are often linked to a continent. The balding, kneeling man represents Europe. The bearded man with turban is from Asia, and the dark man represents Africa. In those days, America was still unknown in Van der Goes' Flanders.

By putting the main actors in a small space inside the ruins, Van der Goes created an intimate atmosphere. At the same time, bystanders can easily see everything. The open character emphasizes the nature of the event: the presentation of Jesus to the world.

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