Skip to main content

Jan Brueghel the Elder, The Adoration of the Kings

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Kings
Artist Jan Brueghel the Elder
Artist dates 1568 - 1625
Date made 1598
Medium and support Bodycolour on vellum
Dimensions 32.9 × 48 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Alfred A. de Pass, 1920
Inventory number NG3547
Location Room 17
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Kings
Jan Brueghel the Elder

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.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo