The Coming of the Magi

Happy Feast of the Epiphany!

Possibly one of the most glorious subjects in religious art – I am spoiled for choice regarding which of the many many paintings made across the centuries I should reproduce here. I have gone for a more modest one. I’ll put some others on Twitter.  As Forrest Gump might have said: “wikimedia is like a box of chocolates” – and they’re all good.




Master Francke – The Adoration of the Magi

I can’t recall who wrote about the Epiphany as the moment at which salvation was signified as God’s mercy to the Gentiles as to the Jews – to, in fact, the whole world.  The Magi, in Western religious art, represent the worldly, wealthy, learned wise men of ‘civilisation’ worshipping the poor, disregarded, lowly Son of God. They represent also the submission of ‘the world’ to the Messiah. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are gifts for the king, not for a tiny Jewish baby born in land subjugated to the imperial invader. The supernatural meets the scientific – the Star of Bethlehem guides the Wise Men to their destination; their prophetic dream warns them away from Herod – Jesus thus escapes the Massacre of the Innocents. And Joseph’s dream spurs him to flee with Jesus and Mary to Egypt. Heh.  Foiled again.

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