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The Adoration of the Magi with Saint Anthony Abbot (about 1390-1410)
will be presented in exhibition at the Getty Center beginning June 29, 2004

May 21, 2004

LOS ANGELES—The Getty has acquiredThe Adoration of the Magi with Saint Anthony Abbot (about 1390–1410), a rare and masterful example of the International Gothic style that dominated taste across Europe around 1400. The work is one of very few northern European panel paintings of this period in any American museum. The new acquisition will be presented to the public in the exhibition Fit for a King, at the Getty Center, June 29–August 29, 2004, which explores the Getty's holdings of works in the International Gothic style.

 "The Adoration of the Magi is a lyrical, elegant painting that displays a unique combination of medieval spirituality and Renaissance humanity," says Deborah Gribbon, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and vice president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. "There is nothing comparable to it in other American collections." 

 The size (34 ¾ by 67 ½ inches) and sophistication of the work suggest that it was originally located in an ecclesiastical setting, perhaps in a hospital or chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony Abbot. Although the artist is unknown, the exceptional quality of the painting suggests that this anonymous master, possibly French or Flemish working in Burgundy, was a leading figure working in the International Gothic style. 

 For nearly a century, this new aesthetic swept Europe, blending influences from different artistic centers and royal courts. United under a social and cultural umbrella of competing aristocratic splendor, power, and prestige, artists of the period produced works that shared common elements, including a fondness for intricate details, rich displays of courtly opulence, elegant figures, and an increasing naturalism. The resplendent patterned ground, the flat and decorative presentation of gold objects such as crowns, and the arrangement of the Holy Family seen in The Adoration of the Magi are typical of the most sophisticated paintings in France, Germany and Bohemia during this period. 

 Densely covered with a silver (originally gold) floral motif, The Adoration of the Magi's vibrant red background serves as a magnificent foil for the animated procession of figures. At the center, enthroned in his mother's lap, the new King stands to receive the offerings of the Magi. Caspar, kneeling bareheaded in reverence, offers his gift of gold, with Balthasar and Melchior standing behind him. The three wise men are all resplendently dressed. Their clothing mirrors contemporary court sensibility while alluding to their far-flung kingdoms, suggested in part by the white "turban" worn by Melchior. At the far left stands Saint Anthony Abbot, identified by the T-shaped staff, a bell with which he repelled Satan, and a pig traditionally associated with his treatment of skin conditions.

 The work becomes the Museum's earliest northern European panel painting, complementing the Getty's collection of Italian and German paintings and relating to a number of recent acquisitions including A Faun and His Family with a Slain Lion (about 1526) by Lucas Cranach the Elder of the German high Renaissance, a drawing of Christ as the Gardener by an Upper Rhenish Master, and the Getty's new collection of stained glass. It also complements the Getty's manuscript collection, which includes important works in the International Gothic style.

Thea Page
Getty Communications Dept.

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