Johann Heinrich Schönfeld, German, 1609–1684, Adoration of the Magi, n.d, Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 28 1/2 in., Saint Vincent Archabbey Collection, Gift of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
Johann Heinrich Schönfeld’s work meditates on the scene from Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 4:9–11) recounting the visit of “wise men from the east” in pursuit of the recently born Hebrew King. Tradition maintains the eldest king is first to recognize the Christ Child; he is often depicted having removed his crown, kissing Jesus’ feet in humble adoration. Behind him one king reveals his gift while another witnesses the noble exchange from atop a camel. Saint Joseph attends his watchful gaze over the encounter, modeling a contemplative stance for viewers. A throng of attendants crowd the manger, including a figure who has climbed a stone support in hopes of gaining a better view. Schönfeld rooted the scene within an architectural backdrop–a signature compositional element in nearly all his works. While the painting has unfortunately undergone the intervention of several inferior restorations, the brilliance of Schönfeld’s colors and strong brushwork shines through.