Artibus et Historiae no. 30 (XV)

1994, ISSN 0391-9064

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YONA PINSON - Bruegel's 1564 Adoration: Hidden Meanings of Evil in the Figure of the Old King

In his 1564 Adoration of the Kings Bruegel depicts the Old King in what seems a traditional reverential attitude. But the strange and deformed face and the white wild hair throw some doubt on the devotional attitude. A careful examination of the Old King's rich costume reveals meanings of wickedness and symbols of sin interweaved in the rich brocade design and embroidered in the border of his royal robe. Bruegel follows here Bosch's system of hidden symbolism, developing an unusual iconographical language by using a traditional medieval vocabulary combined with mythological references. Although Bosch's Epiphany might have been Bruegel's "source of inspiration", his own version is transformed. It is not only completely secular, but also much more pessimistic. In Bruegel's Adoration the Kings
form part of the forces of evil, and bow falsely before the Lord.

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