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Bramantino, The Adoration of the Kings

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Kings
Artist Bramantino
Artist dates active 1490; died 1530
Date made about 1500
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 56.8 × 55 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3073
Location Gallery C
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Adoration of the Kings

This scene is so unusual that it’s not entirely clear who the figures are intended to represent. Usually the Three Kings are shown kneeling in front of the Christ Child; here, instead, we can see two of them standing proudly before the Virgin and Child, presenting their gifts in large containers. We aren't sure which figure is intended to represent the third king.

The figure with the mane of hair who looks straight towards us is John the Baptist. It’s unusual to see him in this scene, but his baptism of Christ is celebrated on 6 January – the same day that the visit of the Three Kings is celebrated.

Bramantino was fascinated by linear perspective (using line to create an impression of three-dimensional space on a flat surface). He created a guide of intersecting lines on this panel, allowing him to paint objects and figures at the correct scale relative to each other so they appear to be in a realistic three-dimensional space.

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