The Adoration of the Kings

This large picture was painted as the altarpiece of the Lady Chapel of the Abbey of St Adrian's, Geraardsbergen, near Brussels.  It was evidently commissioned by a local nobleman, Daniel van Boechout, Lord of Boerlare, who was to be buried there.  Behind the kneeling king, Caspar, stands Melchior with a retinue of attendants. Balthazar is on the left, and Gossaert has signed his name on the border of his headdress and again on the collar worn by his attendant.

The dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, descends to the infant Christ from the brilliant star in the sky, and angels approach from a great distance through a series of arches, giving the scene a spectacular sense of space and depth.

Gossaert used the bright colour and highly detailed oil painting technique of his 15th-century Netherlandish predecessors to sophisticated effect. The figures wear sumptuous costumes made of rich fabrics. The metalwork gifts presented by the kings are elaborate and reflect contemporary designs.

Key facts

Artist dates
active 1508; died 1532
Full title
The Adoration of the Kings
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on oak
179.8 × 163.2 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Inscribed
Acquisition credit
Bought with a special grant and contributions from the Art Fund, Lord Glenconner, Lord Iveagh and Alfred de Rothschild, 1911
Inventory number
Location in Gallery