An Adored Image

In northern Europe, popular demand for paintings of the Magi kept generations of artists busy. The scene also allowed artists to demonstrate their skill and creativity in picturing a wide range of ages, ethnic types, material textures, and setting details.

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The story of the Magi's visit often takes place in the stable where Jesus was born. However, this artist sets the episode beneath the decoratively carved pillars of an elegant house.
One of the Magi is usually a dark-skinned African, often wearing a purple cloak. He is named Gaspar.
The youngest of the Magi, usually called Balthazar (BALL-theh-zar), often appears with Asian or Arabian features.
Myrrh (MUR), a pleasant smelling, resinous oil used in funerary rites, symbolizes death.
Frankincense (FRANK-in-sens, burned to create a perfumed smoke, is said to be symbolic of priesthood.
The oldest of the Magi, with white beard and hair, is called Melchior (MEHL-kee-or). He is shown as a White European.
Gold is a symbol of wealth and kingship in many cultures.
The Virgin Mary wears a draped red-orange cloak, a departure from her usual blue.
In contrast to the richly trimmed, gold-threaded fabrics of the Magi, Mary's husband Joseph wears a long sleeved tunic of rustic brown. He clutches his hat to his chest in a respectful gesture.