The subject of the Adoration of the Magi, along with the Adoration of the Shepherds, occupies pride of place in Jacopo Bassano’s repertory. Jacopo and his family workshop produced several versions showing the three gift-bearing kings—traditionally representing three ages and three parts of the known world, including Africa—paying homage to the newborn Jesus as preeminent king.
This scene of the three kings and the holy family is painted on stone, rather than on canvas or wood, and not by Jacopo Bassano himself. After Jacopo’s death, a Flemish engraver, Raphael Sadeler I, recorded this composition in an engraving, and the Kimbell artwork appears to be one of several examples—some also painted on stone—that derive from this print. Although Jacopo may not have produced this work, several of his contemporaries praised his skill in painting night scenes on small black stones, and a painting on slate is listed in the inventory of the artist’s studio after his death.
Beautiful stone supports became more common for miniature paintings during the Baroque period. In the Kimbell Adoration, the yellow-veined green jasper background that serves as the picture’s support has been deftly integrated into the painted image to suggest an outcropping of rocks instead of the more traditional landscape setting with architectural ruins found in the versions on canvas. The rare stone would have been valued as a precious specimen of nature and for its smooth and durable surface, ideally suited for detailed brushwork.
Mrs. Hedy Maria Allen [d. 1990], New York;
bequeathed to Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1990.