Manuscript Illumination with Adoration of the Magi

Artist: Master of James IV of Scotland (probably Gerard Horenbout) (South Netherlandish, active ca. 1485–1530)

Date: ca. 1515–25

Geography: Made in Ghent (?), Netherlands

Culture: South Netherlandish

Medium: Tempera, ink, and shell gold on parchment

Dimensions: 6 1/2 x 4 5/8in. (16.5 x 11.7cm)
Mat: 12 × 10 in. (30.5 × 25.4 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935

Accession Number: 48.149.15


This striking miniature is one a pair of leaves of identical size that were probably detached from an early sixteenth-century book of hours. In addition to its subtle modeling and color, the image is distinguished by a sophisticated spatial design, through which the main section of the miniature appears to be superimposed upon the background that unfolds in a continuous landscape below and on either side of the image. In the principal scene, the three kings, their retinue visible through the doorway of a ruined building, pay homage to the Christ Child. In the border below, the Magi are shown kneeling before Herod within an arcade, while various onlookers can be seen peering over the edge of a wall. A large group of figures on horseback in the upper left margin represents the journey undertaken by the Magi. The technique, color scheme, and use of space are similar to those found in works attributed to the Master of James IV of Scotland, whose name derives from a miniature depicting the ruler in an early sixteenth-century prayer book housed in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna (Cod. 1897). Identified by some with the Netherlandish painter and illuminator Gerard Horenbout, this artist was especially adept at manipulating and expanding the illusionistic effects of manuscript illumination. Several of his recorded manuscripts were commissioned by Northern European courts, where images of such complex visual conceit would have been particularly appreciated.