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Adoration of the Kings
Gerard David
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The Three Kings – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar – present gifts to the Christ Child in the ruins of a grand building. The Virgin Mary sits on the edge of the manger while Saint Joseph, her husband, comes down a staircase just visible to the left. A crowd of curious onlookers, some wearing turbans, peer through the arch on the right. In the field behind Caspar’s head we can see an ox and a donkey, while everyday life goes on in the street of the town behind.

This painting was perhaps once part of a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) showing the life of Christ painted by Gerard David in Antwerp after 1515. It is likely that a similarly sized panel, the Lamentation, comes from the same complex.

Key facts
Artist Gerard David
Artist dates active 1484; died 1523
Full title Adoration of the Kings
Group Two Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made about 1515
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 60 x 59.2 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Joseph H. Green, 1880
Inventory number NG1079
Location in Gallery Room 5
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Two Panels from an Altarpiece

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These two paintings – the Adoration of the Magi and the Lamentation – most likely come from a polyptych (an altarpiece made up of several panels) painted by Gerard David and his assistants in the workshop he set up in Antwerp in 1515. They are roughly the same size and the figures are painted on the same scale, and have been together since at least the nineteenth century. They may have come from a lost altarpiece showing scenes from the life of Christ.

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