This painting also has much in common with two works associated with Frans Pourbus the Elder (1545–81), most notably the panel depicting the Adoration of the Magi from the large, polyptych Hemelsdale Altarpiece in the church of St. Gilles, Bruges, dated 1564, attributed to Frans and his father, Pieter Pourbus.3 The Virgin and Child, the figures behind them, and many of the details - such as the elephant peeking out of the background - are almost identical to those in the present panel, the painted reverse of which indicates that it was also once a wing from a larger scheme. Many of the same figures and details appear in another Adoration, signed by Frans Pourbus the Elder and also dated 1564, which was last sold at Koller, Zurich, 19 September 2014, lot 3032.
Prof. Jonckheere dates the present work to the 1540s, or possibly early 1550s, however, which excludes the possibility of Frans Pourbus' authorship, tentatively suggesting that this panel may have inspired the Hemelsdale composition. Pourbus, who spent time in Antwerp as a pupil, was certainly acquainted with Adriaen Thomas Key, Willem's distant relative and pupil, and the two are known to have exchanged works, which may account for Pourbus' knowledge of this design.
1 Inv. no. 5553-1B0248; see K. Jonckheere, Willem Key (1516–1568). Portrait of a Humanist painter, Turnhout 2011, pp. 152–54, cat. no. A77, reproduced in colour p. 153.
2 See Jonckheere 2011, pp. 142–45, cat. no. A72, reproduced in colour p. 143.
3 See P. Huvenne, Pierre Pourbus. Peintre brugeois 1524–1584, exh. cat., Bruges 1984, pp. 171–72, cat. no. 8, reproduced in colour pp. 170–71.
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