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The Adoration of the Kings, Pieter Bruegel, 1564

The Adoration of the Kings is an oil-on-panel painting of the Adoration of the Magi by the Netherlandish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1564, and now in the National Gallery, London.

In the chronological sequence of Bruegel's work, this painting of 1564 marks an important departure as the first to be composed almost exclusively of large figures. The group of people, taken from Italian mannerist painters like Parmigianino, permits Bruegel to concentrate on individual faces, giving each a quite distinct, and sometimes grotesque, expression.

This emphasis on the uniqueness of each figure, and Bruegel's lack of interest in depicting ideal beauty in the Italian manner, makes it clear that although borrowing an Italian compositional scheme, Bruegel is putting it to quite a different use. In this treatment, the painter's first purpose is to record the range and intensity of individual reactions to the sacred event.

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