In 2000, the museum’s medieval sculpture collections saw the addition of this polychrome bas-relief depicting the Adoration of the Magi. Following the traditional treatment, the scene takes place in a dilapidated stable. The three wise men, wearing turbans and luxurious garments of Oriental inspiration, pay homage to the Infant Jesus, bestowing their precious offerings under the astonished gaze of Joseph.
Whereas the loose, unbound hair of the Virgin Mary symbolises her virginity, the child’s complete nudity emphasises the human nature of the Son of God.
Originally, this bas-relief was part of the decoration of an altarpiece, of which another panel also survives, now in Ulm and presenting the same stylistic traits. These two works are attributed to the entourage of Master H.L., an abbreviated name linked with all the works of this artist active during the last phase of the late Gothic period in the Upper Rhine region. The same artist produced engravings as well as sculptures, such as the Altarpiece in the Church of Saint Stephen at Breisach, which bears the date 1526. As evident in the Martyrdom of Saint Catherine, also in the museum’s collections, a characteristic feature of his art is the tumultuous agitation of his compositions, with a propensity for twirling mops of hair and drapery as well as arbitrary folds.