Three Kings’ Day

Hi everyone! Since today is January 6th, I wanted to talk about artworks that are based on Three Kings’ Day. To begin with, this is a day that people celebrate when the Three Kings went to visit Christ after he was born. It is often celebrated January 6th, although there are some faiths that celebrate on different days. The Three Kings were following a star that had been prophesied to led them to the King of Men. When the star led them to Christ, they adored him and gave Christ gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

A painting that is based on this subject matter is called the Adoration of the Magi by Bartolome Esteban Murillo created in 1655-60.


Image from Wiki

The three Wise Men, Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar, are here adoring the Christ. Mary is presenting Christ to one of the Wise men, who is kneeling before him. Behind the wise men are a few men and children who also look involved in the adoration of the shepherd. In the top left corner, you can see the star that led the Kings to Christ. Murillo places this painting in a discreet location, barely representing the stable. This painting is very different from the other Adoration of the Magi; different paintings often emphasize the location of the stable, but this painting puts emphasize on the figures and the act of the adoration.

The next painting I wanted to talk about is the Adoration of the Magi by El Greco created in 1568-9.


Image from Wiki

Unlike Murillo’s painting above, this painting is placed in an even different location. It is unclear were exactly the figures are placed, but the setting suggests that it’s somewhere more pristine and sophisticated. Here the figures are only Mary, Christ, Joseph, the three Kings, and the camels. We can see that the Kings are adoring the child Christ, who Mary is presenting. The older King is kneeling here, like he was in the Murillo painting, and he has also taken off his crown to show humility. Lastly, it’s interesting to see the originality that El Greco adds to this by placing the setting somewhere other than the stable. The setting makes reference to Roman architectural structures, which could be referencing Christ’s death and/or, maybe even, the spread of Christianity in Rome after Christ’s death.

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