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Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’ – at the National Gallery

by Theresa Thompson, Art Correspondent for Timeless Travels


Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart), The Adoration of the Kings, 1510-15 © The National Gallery, London



The National Gallery was due to open a new exhibition tomorrow, on one of its most popular paintings: Jan Gossaert’s 16th-century masterpiece, The Adoration of the Kings.


“It is a painting that retains its great power to speak across time,” said Dr Gabriele Finaldi, the Gallery’s director.


The spectacular altarpiece, crammed with animals, angels, peasants, richly dressed kings and courtiers, come to worship the infant Christ, who sits on his mother’s lap in an extravagantly ruined building, was due to be seen at the National Gallery as never before.


The oil painting is crammed with symbolic meanings. As part of a “new immersive digital experience,” the Gallery was to offer visitors the chance to discover details that would probably have passed unnoticed as well as “becoming part of the soundscape” of the painting.


The new planned digital experience was designed to guide the viewer by the African king Balthasar’s ‘voice’ into individual “pods” where not only are they “bathed in sound” - the birds sing, the wind blows, people chatter – but also led towards noticing “unseen” elements of the painting. For example, the angel’s bravura rainbow wings, Gossaert’s two signatures (one on Balthasar’s hat, the second on his attendant’s silver collar), the hairs sprouting from a wart on the kneeling king’s face, and the richness of his velvet robes.


Gossaert introduces a series of contrasts into his the altarpiece, such as birth, death and renewal, while ultimately, the picture suggests a moment of significant change in a decaying world: decay, ruin is all around, yet something momentous and new is happening.


A poem read in Balthazar’s ‘voice’, written by Theresa Lola, the 2019 Young People’s Laureate for London, is an integral and vivid part of the show. One line seemed especially apposite right now: “Should I promise my people, this is Hope arriving?”


Sadly that will all have to wait now, although you can can still find out more about the painting, and the poem written by Theresa Lola, For more information about the exhibition and other online features of interest that go with it, click here



Sensing the Unseen

Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration'

National Gallery, London