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Giorgione, The Adoration of the Kings

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Kings
Artist Giorgione
Artist dates 1473/4? – 1510
Date made 1506-7
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 29.8 × 81.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1884
Inventory number NG1160
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Kings

The shape and subject matter of this picture suggest that it was possibly painted as part of the predella (or lower part) of an altarpiece, although predellas were already rare in Venetian art during Giorgione’s lifetime.

The Virgin, Child and Saint Joseph are sitting on the steps of the stable where Christ has been born. The Three Kings have brought gifts to present to Christ, and kneel at a slight distance from the holy family. Caspar has already given his glass casket of myrrh to Joseph; the oldest king, Melchior, is about to present a golden bowl. Balthasar, the youngest king, kneels further away holding a glass orb that probably contains frankincense. The attendants wear exotic costumes and turbans, recalling their origins in the East. This painting is part of the so-called Allendale Group (after the Allendale Adoration of the Shepherds in the National Gallery of Art, Washington), paintings from earlier in Giorgione’s career which form the cornerstones of our understanding of his work.

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