Ajoutez à vos favoris
Recommandez LB
the Louvre with the Bible
Jouez avec LouvreBible !
Subcribe to the newsletter !
Painting of the month
Work of the month
Book of the month
Article of the month
Ancient Mesopotamia
Assyria Nineveh
Arslan Tash Til Barsip
Iran Palace of Darius
Phoenicia Arabia Palmyra
Levant Syrian coast
Ougarit Byblos
Great Sphinx The Nile
Leisure Temple
The mummy
Book of the Dead
Old and New Kingdom
Writing and scribes
Campana room
Room of Bronzes
Caryatids Room
Roman art
Julio-Claudian Period
Late Antiquity
Gaul, Africa and Syria
Thematic visit
Search a work
Research theme
Entertaining visit
Did you know - 1
Did you know - 2
Did you know - 3
More information ?
Order the book
Print Purchase Order
Contact us

The Three Kings, Fact or Fiction?

Keywords: Magi, Melchior, Epiphany 
According to tradition and religious art, three wise men were guided by a star to the place where Jesus was born. The visit of the Magi is celebrated on January 6, Epiphany. This festival takes many forms throughout the world and in several European countries, we share that day the galette. These representations of the Nativity they fall tradition or what the Bible really teaches? 

The Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi
MI 523

Florence about 1459
Denon 1st Floor Room 3
The Magi are mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew. This is not one of the kings, does not give them names and did not specify their number (Matthew 2: 1-12). The Greek word does not mean Magoi kings but "those who know the secrets of astrology." Strong circumstantial evidence shows that it was astrologers.

Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian gave all the sense of the word. Modern Bible versions render it 'astrologers' in Matthew 2: 1,7 (The New Testament, Farrel edition, An American Translation, TMN). 

The Magi are mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew

The New Testament of Charles Williams translated
this term as "star gazers" and put this note: "that is
to say those who study the stars in relation to
the events of the earth. "And the Bible in French Exp,
they are" scholars who studied the stars. "

The Greek word does not mean Magoi kings
but "those who know
the secrets of astrology."

No numbers, no names, and not Kings

1810 registered the oratory walls of a villa located in the Litta family in a suburb of Milan named Greco Milanese, but in which there is little documentation, these three Luini frescoes are probably around 1520-1525.

Rigor and austerity of their spatial organization characteristic of the Lombard painting of the late fifteenth century, combine with an influence of Leonardo who
Luini must sweetness
expressions of his figures
and the delicacy of light.
Adoration of the Magi    
MI 714
Bernardino LUINI
Luino?, 1485

Painted for a chapel Greco Milanese,
near Milan

Denon 1st Floor
Duchâtel Room 2
The Adoration of the Magi
MI 592


H. 0.38 m. ; L. 0.56 m.

Entered the Louvre in 1863
Element of the predella
an altarpiece which included
The Taking of Christ from
the former collection Borromeo.
The arms, very worn,
could not be decrypted.

Denon 1st floor living room 4 

According to Herodotus, who lived in the V th century av.n. these Magi were members of a Persian priestly class. They had the supernatural gift of predicting the future based stargazing. Matthew reports that these Magi came from the East. They could belong to one of six nations that formed the nation of the Medes. Subsequent investigations tend to Babylon central magism at its peak. Over time the word "Chaldean" became virtually synonymous with "astrologer". - Daniel 4: 7; 5: 7.11 
It is Origen (185-245) in his Homilies on Genesis,
who first fixes the number of mages three
based the three present offered. Many Fathers of
the Church, whose first Tertullian attributed
to the Magi the title of king.

It is Origen (185-245) who first fixes the number of mages three, based on the three gifts offered.

Number Three : Origen (185-245)

This is the reference to verses of Isaiah and the Psalms predictions (72: 10-11) that definitively establishes the tradition. Traditional names Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar appear for the first time in a manuscript of the VI th century. 
Adoration of the Magi
MI 316
Charles de PIT
Paris, 1636 - Paris, 1716
2nd Floor Room 33


This vast composition, marked by the memory of Veronese and Rubens, was painted for the decoration of the choir of Notre Dame, executed between
1715 and 1717.
The complex, dispersed, still included a Nativity La Fosse (Louvre), and other scenes of the Virgin of life, by Claude-Guy Hallé, Jean Jouvenet, Louis de Boulogne, Antoine Coypel.
Adoration of the Shepherds

inv 4988
Carquebut, around 1483
Richelieu 2nd Floor
Cousin and Caron Room 9
Formerly described in the chapel of the castle Ecouen, built by the Constable Anne de Montmorency.

Burning a Nativity, bearing the monogram of Jean de Gourmont and the name of the city of Lyon, allowed to attribute this table and date it between 1522 and 1526 during his Lyon stay
In the iconographic tradition Gaspard, with Asian features, offers incense, Melchior, represented as an old bearded white, gold and Balthazar, willingly or effeminate black skin, myrrh. The visit of the Magi is celebrated on January 6, the day of the Epiphany. Everything suggests that the choice of that date was also influenced by a pagan birthday, that of Aion, god of time and eternity, of which Alexandria was celebrated the anniversary on the night of January 5 to 6

The day of the Epiphany, influenced by a pagan birthday ?

The biblical account does not indicate that the wise men found baby Jesus in a manger, as Christmas imagery wants. Matthew 2:16 reveals that their visit took place maybe a year or more after the birth of Jesus. Verse 11 states that they saw the child in a home, not in a stable (Chouraqui, Thompson, Osty). These representations of the Nativity therefore exceeded the fiction and the tradition of the biblical narrative.


To short Visit

To normal Visit

Oriental Antiquities    Oriental Antiquities Departement
Egyptian Antiquities    Egyptian Antiquities Departement
Roman Antiquities    Roman Antiquities Departement