Workshop of Bernaert van Orley (Brussels 1488-1541)
The Adoration of the Magi oil on panel 32.4 x 44.5cm (12 3/4 x 17 1/2in).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Phillips, London, 10 December 1996, lot 32 Private Collection, Madrid, since 2001
The present composition is related to three other versions of the subject: a panel, 32.4 x 44.5 cm., dated 1535, sold at Sotheby's, London, 5 April 1995, lot 187 (as Bernaert van Orley or Workshop); a painting on canvas laid down on panel, 34 x 45.5 cm., with Caretto Gallery, December 1997; and an undated version in Philadelphia, John G. Johnson Collection, which was listed by Friedländer as painted by Bernaert van Orley circa 1522 (see: M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. VIII, (London, 1972), p. 105, no. 105, ill. pl. 102). Although the Sotheby's and Caretto versions are very close, the other two pictures differ in minor details, in particular in the architecture far right and in the background figures, far left and far right. While the Philadelphia version shows the figure far left to be wearing a helmet, the present composition is closer in this respect to the Sotheby's and Caretto versions. The Philadelphia picture, moreover, lacks the fourth figure seen in this and the Sotheby's picture to the far left. The present composition, however, also incorporates a further figure in this group: that wearing a white turban, which is absent in the other three known versions of this subject.
Friedländer was unaware of the Sotheby's painting, but if he had been he would probably not have suggested such an early date for the Philadelphia version. J.D. Farmer, who had not seen the Sotheby's version, assigns it and the Philadelphia picture to a painter in van Orley's workshop (J.D. Farmer, Bernard van Orley of Brussels, dissertation, 1981, p. 268). He suggests the anonymous painter of a Crucifixion in Madrid, Museo Arquelogico Nacional and a Scourging of Christ in a Swiss Private Collection as the possible author (reproduced Farmer, op. cit., figs. 135, 217). Further weaker painted derivations of the central figure group are at Brussels and Schleissheim, and one is lost (Friedländer, op. cit. , nos. 106a-c, reproduced plates 102-3).