Cabinet painter Van Balen had a preference for mythological scenes with many nude and semi-nude figures; his Biblical subjects are rarer. Among those, the Adoration of the Magi
appears to have been a favorite: he rendered the subject in several compositions. A larger variant of the present picture is Hendrick van Balen’s earliest known dated work from 1598.1
The artist has not simply replicated his earlier work in a much smaller size, but approached the details anew, changing the attire and pose of several of the figures. The pose of the Madonna and Child is virtually the same, but here Van Balen has placed them lower, so the interaction with the kneeling king becomes more intimate. These adjustments suggest that the present lot dates to after 1598, but likely within the first decade of the 17th century. We are grateful to Dr. Fred G. Meijer for invaluable assistance in cataloging this lot.
1. See B. Werche, Hendrick van Balen (1575-1632): ein Antwerpener Kabinettbildmaler der Rubenszeit, Turnhout 2004, p. 142, no. A21