OLD MASTERS FROM THE VAN DEDEM COLLECTION
Acquired by a private collector, Madrid, in 1970;
By descent to his son;
By whom offered ('Property from a Private Collection'), London, Sotheby’s, 10 July 2003, lot 6, unsold;
By whom sold ('Property from a Private Collection'), London, Sotheby’s, 11 December 2003, lot 5, to Noortman;
With Bob Haboldt, Paris;
From whom acquired by Baron van Dedem at TEFAF, Maastricht, 2004.
P.C. Sutton, Dutch & Flemish Paintings, A Supplement, The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, London 2012, pp. 7, 24–30, no. 24, reproduced in colour on pp. 24–25 and pp. 27–29 and 31 (details).
Many variants of the composition were painted by Pieter Coecke and his workshop but this stands out from the others in being the sole one known to date to depict the scene in reverse: Caspar, the oldest Magus kneels before the seated Virgin and Child, while Melchior stands beside him. On the wings, the positions of Balthazar, the third Magus, and Saint Joseph are also inverted compared to the traditional iconography, which has Balthazar on the left wing and Saint Joseph on the right. The latter arrangement is typified by a triptych of similar dimensions to this one at the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, a painting usually discussed as the most representative example of this subject and design.1 Traditionally given to ‘Le Maître de l’Adoration des Mages d’Utrecht’ that work is considered by Georges Marlier to have been produced in the workshop of Jan van Dornicke, possibly with the participation of Pieter Coecke, his son-in-law; Friedländer assigned it to Pieter Coecke;2 more recently it has been ascribed to the Master of 1518 and Pieter Coecke.
First recorded in a private collection in Spain, The Adoration of the Magi is one of a number of variants of the composition located in Spanish collections. Their propagation attests to the exportation of such works from Antwerp to other parts of the Hapsburg empire. They include examples in the Museum in Vitoria, the Museo Lazaro Galdiano, Madrid, and other public and private repositories in Spain published by Marlier.3 Some further examples are discussed by Elisa Bermejo, who considers this version superior. In particular she notes that the quality of the figure of Balthazar surpasses that of the same figure in Pieter Coecke’s Adoration triptych at the Musée des Beaux-arts in Valenciennes.4 Several elements distinguish the central panel of this triptych from other treatments of the subject: the placement of the Virgin on the left is unusual; so too the pose of the Christ Child, who is semi-reclined on her lap; furthermore He holds an apple, a feature unique to this triptych.
1 Inv. no. ABM s 56; central panel 104 x 64.5 cm; wings each 107.5 x 28.5 cm. G. Marlier, La Renaissance flamande. Pierre Coeck d’Alost, Brussels 1966, pp. 146–49, reproduced on p. 147, fig. 77.
2 M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII: Jan van Scorel and Pieter Coeck van Aelst, Leiden 1975, pl. 79, fig. 149a (image reversed).
3 Marlier 1966, pp. 155, 157–58, figs 87, 88, 92 and 95.
4 Marlier 1966, p. 156, fig. 91.
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