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 Ysenbrandt, Adrien (Flemish painter, ca. 1500-before 1551) , The Adoration of the Magi

Core Record

Title The Adoration of the Magi
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Ysenbrandt, Adrien (Flemish painter, ca. 1500-before 1551)
Date Earliest about 1510
Date Latest about 1512

The triptych, of which this scene of the Adoration of the Magi is the central panel, would have been placed upon a small side altar as an aid to piety and a source of instruction. For most of the year, it would have been shown open displaying the Nativity, Adoration of the Magi and Presentation which correspond to the three feasts of Christ's infancy in the church year, Christmas, Epiphany and Candlemas. During Lent, however, the wings would have been closed to shown the Annunciation in grisaille (painting in monochrome) on the exterior. This panel shows the arrival of the three kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar with gifts of gold (for royalty), frankincense (for divinity) and myrrh (for mortality). The event, known as the Epiphany, represents the manifestation of God to the Gentiles. The artist contrasts the fantastic richness of the kings with the simplicity of the Holy Family.

Ysenbrandt spent his working life in Bruges, at that time an important artistic centre. He continued the tradition of the great Bruges painters, Hans Memling (1430/5-94) and Gerard David ((d. 1523). Little is known about his life and he left no known signed works, but a number of paintings, including this piece, have been attributed to him on the basis of style alone.

Current Accession Number 1928P554b
Former Accession Number P.554'28
Subject religion (Adoration of the Magi)
Measurements 66.0 x 95.9 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel (hardwood {oak})
Acquisition Details Given by the John Sumner Trust 1928.
Provenance Durlacher, Collection, 1903; C. Fairfax Murray sale, Christie's, 14 December 1917, lot 50 bought by Willis (bt in); bought by Agnew's from C. Fairfax Murray, 1918; bt, John Sumner Trust, 1928
Principal Exhibitions Kunsthistorische Ausstellung, Düsseldorf, Stadtischen, 1904, cat. no. 154; L'Exposition Gerard David, Musée Communal, Bruges, 1949, cat. no. 24; Gerard David and his Followers, Wildenstein, London, 1949, cat. no. 21; Gerard Dou and his Followers, Royal Academy, London, 1953, cat. no. 100; L'Art Flamand dans les Collections Britanniques, Agnew's, London, 1957, cat. no. 27i>; Old Masters from Birmingham, Wildenstein, London, 1970, cat. no. 6;
Publications Friedländer, M. J., 'Hugo van der Goes, Eine Nachlese', Jahrbuch der Königlichen Preussischen, 1904, pp. 114-18 as Bruges Master, about 1510; Von Bodenhausen, E., Gerard Dou und Seine Schule, 1905, p. 94; Conway, W. M., The Van Eykes and Their Followers, 1921, pp. 229, 309-400; Kaines-Smith, S. C., 'An Isembrant for Birmingham', Burlington Magazine, vol 53, 1928, pp. 238-243; Friedländer, M. J., Die Altniederländische Malerei, 1934, p. XI, no.126; Catalogue of Paintings in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1930; Catalogue of Paintings in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 83, ill.
Notes The frame is not original since the edge of the centre frame is at least 3 mm from the edge of the painted surface at each side, and there is a narrow fillet added on to the left to hold the panel in the frame.

Kaines-Smith attributed this to Ysenbrandt in 1928 and Friedländer in 1934, dating it to 1510 - 1512.

Friedländer (1904) compared this painting with the triptych The Offering in the Temple in St Saviour's, Bruges, which can be dated to the first decade of the sixteenth century, and he associated them both with the group of works by the master then temporarily identified as the Pseudo-Mostaert (now identified as Ysenbandt). He also pointed out that the composition of the Presentation is copied almost directly from the right wing of Memling's Adoration of the Magi triptych (Prado, Madrid), which in turn was derived from the St Columba Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden. In his view the upper half of the kneeling Magus resembles the kneeling Magus in The Adoration of the Magi in Berlin, a poor copy after a lost Hugo van der Goes. This lost work was also the model for Gerard David's Adoration of the Magi (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), and the latter would also appear to have influenced the composition of this painting. Kaines-Smith (1928) argued that this work demonstrates that Ysenbrandt originated in Antwerp and that he was, in his early years, closely allied with Goossen van der Weyden.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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