The Three Magi
The Ambras Adoration of the Magi is a particularly finely crafted straw intarsia of the eighteenth century. The picture depicts the Three Wise Men Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar who pay homage to the infant Jesus on the lap of Mary. The Three Kings are said to be representatives of the three continents Europe, Asia and Africa known at that time, and the picture symbolises also the motif of the three ages.
As a template of the Ambras inlay work serves a copper engraving made by the copper cutter and printer Johann Peter Goffart of Cologne in c.1760. The King swinging a censer goes back to a painting by Peter Paul Rubens 1626/27, which now can be seen in the Louvre in Paris.
Intarsia are a form of wood inlaying that is made of differently coloured and structured materials such as wood, stone or – as here – straw. Intarsia works had their first high bloom in Europe in Renaissance times and spread from Italy to all over Europe. Intarsia made of straw are particularly fascinating, because the low-quality straw material looks brilliant from afar as if it were gold.
The 'Adoration of the Magi' has been a very popular motive in art since antiquity. The Ambras straw picture probably came into the Ambras collection in the ninetieth century.