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The Milan Altarpiece and its Magi at the KBR

The Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) is presenting, for one month only, an exceptional exhibition dedicated to the altarpiece of the Adoration of the Magi from the Basilica of San Nazaro Maggiore in Milan. This piece is a masterpiece of Brussels' 15th-century artistic heritage, recently restored by KIK-IRPA. Its Magi are in the spotlight.

The Milan Altarpiece: A Brussels Treasure

The altarpiece of the Adoration of the Magi in Milan, attributed to Jan II Borman, a renowned Brussels sculptor, is an emblematic work of the 15th century. This long-unknown piece was rediscovered and recognised for its exceptional artistic value, demonstrating the skill and finesse of Brussels artists of the time. Today, the work is the only altarpiece attributed to Jan II Borman, whose original polychrome is preserved.

The Magi: A Central Character

The exhibition offers a unique opportunity to appreciate King Balthazar outside its case. The Magi, who occupy the scene's foreground, are entirely sculpted in the round. They delicately hold between their slender fingers the covered cup containing the myrrh offered to the newborn. The theme of the Adoration of the Magi allows for representing the richness of the costumes. It thus allows the altarpiece's polychromers to deploy all the highly sophisticated decorative techniques used in Brussels at the end of the 15th century.

The Restoration by KIK-IRPA: A Revelation

The Institute has performed meticulous restoration, revealing the original colours and details masked by a thick brown varnish. This restoration has allowed for the work's rediscovery in its original state, thus revealing the full richness of its history and art.

This study and restoration project of the Adoration of the Magi is led by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage under the direction of Emmanuelle Mercier and carried out in partnership with the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage of Milan, the parish of San Nazaro Maggiore, and the Diocese of Milan, accompanied by an international scientific committee. It was made possible thanks to the Jean-Jacques Comhaire Fund and the René and Karin Jonckheere Fund managed by the King Baudouin Foundation. They have joined forces with the Fondation Périer-D'Ieteren and the Italian bank Intesa San Paolo.

This exceptional exhibition is accessible at the KBR from Monday, December 11, to January 7, 2024.


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