The Mariapfarr Altarpiece: Detail, The Adoration of the Magi

15th century (est.)
Presbytery, Pfarrkirche Mariapfarr, Austria

This panel is in the lower left of the altarpiece. Its central figures follow the iconography in the 15th century: the child on Mary's lap, the kneeling mage, the range of ages and races among the three magi. As in the other panels, two marble columns at the left and right edges provide an internal frame and there is an attempt to provide linear perspective.

The artist makes a half-playful comment on the tradition of having the three magi represent Europe, Africa, and Asia. His African and Asian magi both wear turbans, and a huge Moslem flag flies above them. The crescent and the color green are both tokens of Islam, and while other Magi images of this century may have a turban on one of the men I know of none that have two. Accordingly, the white man in the background looks up at the flag with a "hmm" gesture, and his suspicions or worries are seconded by the look on St. Joseph's face as he peeks out from the doorway on the left. The image is contemporary with the startling expansion of the Ottoman Empire into Europe under Mehmed II, and the artist seems to be questioning (again: only half-playfully) the motives of these foreign visitors.

For the date of this work, see my comments on the Coronation panel.

This image in full resolution
More of The Adoration of the Magi

Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.