The Adoration of the Magi

Artist: Quentin Metsys (Netherlandish, Leuven 1466–1530 Kiel)

Date: 1526

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: 40 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (102.9 x 80 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1911

Accession Number: 11.143


This intentionally claustrophobic composition is characteristic of the Antwerp Mannerist style of the first half of the sixteenth century. The scene is viewed up close, with half-length, gesticulating figures separated from the viewer by a fictive ledge. Finely wrought goldsmith work—such as was actually produced for the opulent taste of the cosmopolitan community in Antwerp—abounds. The caricature-like features of the Magi and their retinue reveal the artist’s interest in the extreme physiognomic types popularized by Leonardo da Vinci and made available through prints. It was this interest in the psychology of physiognomy that made Metsys a gifted portraitist.