The Adoration of the Kings

Probably painted in Ferrara where the artist worked for the court of the ruling Este family.

The subject is, unusually, interpreted as a nocturne, which provides opportunities for the flickering brushwork for which Dossi is noted. The huge harvest moon with a pink aureole, traversed by inky clouds, casts a mysterious light, picking out features of the fortified town in the background.

On the left-hand side of the scene is what looks like a cave, but is in fact architecture covered by vegetation. This is the artist’s version of the ruined arch – a common symbol is scenes of the Nativity, representing the decline of the old and the coming of a new age.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1486 - 1542
Full title
The Adoration of the Kings
Date made
about 1527-9
Medium and support
Oil on wood
85.1 x 108 cm
Acquisition credit
Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number
Location in Gallery