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Popular Story Worship of the Magi from the Gospel of St. Matthew became an equally popular topic in medieval painting. On this subject, paintings were written by virtually all famous artists of the era.
Only Rubens wrote about ten paintings on this plot. But the work of the master of the Flemish school illustrated here is richer in plot content and relatively close to the biblical legend.
Of course, Rubens could not move away from the traditions of the time and reality of his era. Here the whole atmosphere is “modernized” for the era of the artist. The Magi are dressed in court outfits, except with the exception of Balthazar, and some pomposity is felt. We must remember that Rubens lived and worked during the Renaissance of the Roman Catholic Church (counter-reformation), and the influence of the latter was in everything. Artworks were supposed to demonstrate the influence of the church on social life. Very often, their customers themselves were portrayed in the paintings.
Nevertheless, Rubens managed to reveal the objective content of the plot:
Joseph, with his penetrating gaze, patronizes the baby, the sorcerer Caspar presents gold gifts on his knees, Balthazar and Cupronickel in bliss await their turn to present their gifts, which, according to the traditions of the Middle Ages, at Rubens in gold containers made by masters of his era. All 3 wise men accompanied by children. To recall the origin of the Magi, the artist in the picture depicted symbols of eastern origin.
These are the people accompanying the Magi in turbans and the camels of the Magi themselves. There are more gifts on Rubens’s canvas than in the plot (gold, frankincense, myrrh). In the foreground, it is not ruled out that by the order of the patrons, the gifts depict half-naked men who are, as it were, suffered, and not yet completely imbued with the significance of what is happening. And of course, angels are in the upper plan. Without them, they are here, though with a childish face, but with the wise look of the prophets.
Rubens’s mastery, his ability to form a powerful composition, chiaroscuro forming volumes and an ingenious color system are also characteristic of this picture. Here, nature is felt in a living way - through the original plastic bodies. The picture is enriched with an abundance of figures, images (with pathetic gestures) and various accessories. Heroes of the canvas as always emphasized bodily. But the main asset of this picture is the creation of an atmosphere of faith in the potential human happiness associated with the birth of the Christian era. The significance of the event, amazement and delight are reflected on the faces of almost all the characters. This is surprisingly complemented by animal figures.
Blind Leads Blind Picture