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Adoration of the Magi

Follower of Hugo van der Goes, South Netherlandish, c.1440–1482
Oil on panel
Made in
Belgium, Europe
Current Location
On View, Gallery 222
50 3/4 x 40 in. (128.9 x 101.6 cm)
framed: 58 1/2 x 48 1/2 in. (148.6 x 123.2 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
Before a magnificent landscape of hills and cliffs, three opulently dressed Magi present the Christ Child with exotic gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The flamboyant kings contrast with the two simple shepherds who strain to observe the scene as they peer on either side of the half column behind the Holy Family. The three different ages and nationalities of the Magi, as well as the distinction between the poor shepherds and wealthy kings, symbolize the universality of Christ’s mission. Following Northern traditions of architectural symbolism, the dilapidated building at right denotes the collapse of a previous religious order. The stone steps on which Mary and her baby sit suggest the foundation of a new one.
by 1902 - still in 1914
van den Corput collection, Brussels, Belgium [1]

by 1925 -
Paul Jean Cels, Brussels, Belgium

In auction "Old Masters and Early American Portraits," at the sale of the estate of the late Paul Jean Cels by Anderson Galleries, New York, NY, USA, on November 4, 1925, lot no. 153 [2]

Victor G. Fischer, Washington D. C. [3]

- 1926
The Ehrich Galleries, New York, NY

1926 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from the Ehrich Galleries [4]

The main source for this provenance is the 1984 catalogue raisonné, cat. no. 8 [Silver, Larry. "The Paintings of Quinten Massys." Montclair, NJ: Allanheld & Schram, 1984, cat. no. 8, p. 198]

[1] According to a 1902 exhibition catalogue, the painting was in the van den Corput collection at this time [Loo, George H. de. "Exposition de Tableaux Flamands des XIVe, XVe, et XVIe Siècles: Catalogue Critique." Gand: A. Siffer, 1902, cat. no. 326, p. 88; Friedlander, Max. "Die Altniederlandische Malerei." Berlin, 1909, vol. 7, p. 123; (Reprint) New York; Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1971, cat. no. 59a, p. 66]. Joseph Destrée also lists this painting in van der Corput's collection at the time of his 1914 publication [Destrée, Joseph. "Hugo van der Goes." Brussels: G. van Oest & Co., 1914, p. 174]. It is unknown when the painting left the collection.

[2] In the 1925 sales catalogue, the painting is listed as being owned by Paul Jean Cels ["Old Masters and Early American Portraits from the Estate of the late Dr. George R. Reuling, Baltimore, Maryland sold by the order of his daughter Mrs. Marie R. Pleasants; from the Estate of the late Paul Jean Cels of Belgium." Anderson Galleries, November 4, 1925, New York, NY, lot no. 153].

[3] Several variations of Fischer's name are used to refer to his ownership including: "Victor G. Fischer" (Getty Provenance Index), "with Fischer, Washington" (SLAM accession records), and Fischer Galleries (Silver's 1984 catalogue raisonné, see note above). Despite the discrepencies, it is evident that Fischer owned the work and most likely bought it at the 1925 sale of the Cels' collection in New York (see note [2]).

[4] Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control, June 11, 1926.
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