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Girolamo da Carpi, The Adoration of the Kings

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Kings
Artist Girolamo da Carpi
Artist dates 1501 - 1556
Date made about 1538-48
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 44.2 × 32.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG640
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Adoration of the Kings
Girolamo da Carpi

Guided by a star, the Three Kings journeyed from the East to Bethlehem to honour the newborn Christ. Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Girolamo’s depiction of the subject is unusual. Normally the holy family is shown in a stable in the ruins of a classical building and the kings are depicted with an entourage. The manner in which Caspar is prostrated on the ground here is also very unusual. Balthasar, contrary to appearances, is not being set upon by robbers – he is removing his sword, aided by his attendants, in preparation for his meeting with Christ.

The group of the Virgin and the infant Christ with the first two kings is derived from a tapestry cartoon (full-size drawing) made by followers of Raphael, called the Scuola Nuova cartoon (the original is now lost). A copy and another slightly earlier version of Girolamo’s picture are known.

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