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ART: The Adoration of the Magi from Zlaté Moravce (approx. 1450) Issue number
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      This painting in the Prague collection depicts a popular theme of the Epiphany – the Adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2: 1-12). From a functional viewpoint it was intended for the Lent wing of the (closed) altar. Against a dark country background with a stable, donkey and bull we can see the Virgin Mary sitting down, holding Jesus, with three Magi distinguishable by age. The oldest of them, who is wearing no crown, is kneeling and kissing the hand of Jesus. The two younger ones are speaking to each other and wear crowns highlighted by yellow halos. The motif of the adoration is extended by the Annunciation to the Shepherds – two shepherds are depicted on a hill, with their sheep in the background, and an angel is addressing them through the hymn, gloria in excelsis deo et in terra p[ax hominibus bonae voluntatis] (Glory to God in the highest, and on earth p[eace and good will toward men]), the text visible as an inscription.

     The Spiš worksop studio, where the picture was painted, was part of the so-called “modest style” of Central-European painting from around the middle of the 15th century. The best known work from this studio is the Altar of St. Stephen and Emery in Matejovce, today part of the city of Poprad (after 1450). This style, with a deliberately reduced formal repertoire, was, to a certain extent, a reaction to the richness of the previous movement, the so-called “beautiful style”. Influenced by criticism of paintings in the “beautiful style” by the Hussites and later also by Franciscan (observant) preachers, the “modest style” spread across Central Europe, especially through Lesser Poland (centred in Krakow) and Spiš. However, it also reached Košice and Southern Bohemia. It is unclear how a painting from Spiš received the provenance “from Zlaté Moravce”. The National Collection of Old Masters in Prague acquired it at an art market in Vienna in 1938. The picture was displayed in the Slovak National Gallery for many decades after the end of the war until it was returned to the National Gallery Prague following restitution proceedings in 1995.

Dušan Buran

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