“The worship of the Magi,” Jerome Bosch – a description of the picture

“The worship of the Magi,” Jerome Bosch – a description of the picture
“The worship of the Magi,” Jerome Bosch - a description of the picture - 1

  • Posted by Jerome Bosch
  • Museum: Prado Museum
  • Year: 1494

Description of the picture :

Wolves worship – Jerome Bosch. Wood, butter. 147.4 x 168.6 cm
   The triptych “The Witch Worship” by Jerome Bosch was commissioned by newlyweds – Peter Bronkhorst, Burger Hertogenbosch, and Agnes Bossuise. They planned to hang the picture in the chapel of the Brotherhood of Our Lady, but subsequently it was transported repeatedly to other monasteries, and then the canvas hit the Prado Museum in Madrid, where it is still stored.

   The central part of the triptych depicts a famous scene from the Bible: the Virgin sits in front of the hut with a baby, and the three Magiases – Valtazar, Melchior and Gaspard – bring them gifts. Bosch departs from the text of the source and gives the image new meanings: a golden sculpture with Abraham and Isaac means the future sacrifice of Christ; on the breastplate of Melchior – the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon; a silver power in Gaspard’s hands crowns an eagle, and the commander Abner and David are depicted on the power itself, defeated Galyaf.

   People are visible at the doors of the hut, including an old man in a red cloak. Its identity has not yet been established, but historians express different opinions: it can be both Herod and the Antichrist. The character’s demonic nature is indicated by symbols such as the atlanes on the tape under the cloak and a round wound on the leg – a sign of illness, God’s punishment.

   It is also worth paying attention to Gaspar, the youngest of the Magi. He came from Ethiopia, and in the Middle Ages dark skin was traditionally associated with unbelief in God, sinfulness. Despite the fact that during the time of Bosch it was no longer so relevant, you can see a few more symbols sending the viewer to the pagan past of the Moors: the position in the picture (Gaspar stands farther than all from Our Lady) and embroidery on the floors of the robe.

   The inner wings depict donators (customers) and St. Peter with St. Agnes. On the left sash, a dilapidated wall with a leaky canopy is visible, under which St. Joseph dries the baby’s diapers.

   Against the background, Bosch depicts three armies advancing on Jerusalem from different sides, as well as more mundane situations: on the left sash, peasants dance, on the right – wolves kill and eat other peasants. Thus, the artist contrasts the triumph of worldly pleasures and sin taking place in the foreground.

   The outer triptych sash, made in gray-brown colors, depicts the Mass of St. Gregory. According to his life, once a priest, an assistant to Gregory in the church service, doubted that the Blood and Body of Christ were embodied in holy gifts. Then, in response to the prayers of Gregory, Jesus himself appeared on the altar and allowed the congregation to see his wounds.

   The “wolf worship” of Bosch is an unusual vision of a common plot. As in other paintings by this artist, there are many symbols in the triptych that art historians still cannot accurately decipher.