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The Adoration of the Kings
Jan Brueghel the Elder
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Jan Brueghel seems to have squeezed a whole world into his tiny picture. A crowd waits patiently for a turn to come closer to the little child on his mother’s knee. The baby is bare, to show us that he’s a real human baby, but the silvery arrow of light tells us something more.

The old man kneeling is a king. He wears no crown and neither do the kings on either side of him. It’s the child that wears the true crown – a delicate halo that would outshine any earthly crown, for it announces him as the Son of God.

Brueghel’s delicate picture was painted in body colour (watercolour which is mixed with white pigment to make it opaque) on vellum and was made to be handled. It was a talking point but also a reminder of a great religious event. Its owner would have enjoyed the strange mixture of beauty and ugliness that the artist often put into his pictures, bringing everyday people into incidents of great significance.

Key facts
Artist Jan Brueghel the Elder
Artist dates 1568 - 1625
Full title The Adoration of the Kings
Date made 1598
Medium and support Bodycolour on vellum
Dimensions 32.9 x 48 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Alfred A. de Pass, 1920
Inventory number NG3547
Location in Gallery Not on display
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