Matthew the Evangelist describes how wise men from the East followed a star to Bethlehem to worship the newborn Saviour. Depictions of these three kings worshipping the Christ Child and offering him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh originated from the 12th century on. They later became standard types: a Moorish king, a young one and a greybeard, representatives of the then known continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. The kings wear oriental garb and are often accompanied by a cavalcade with exotic animals.

The Adoration of the Shepherds is also a familiar theme in art. According to Luke the Evangelist, an angel announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds in the fields, but he makes no mention of an adoration. The depiction of this subject developed in Italy in the 14th century, following the example of the Adoration of the Kings. Generally, three shepherds are shown kneeling before Jesus, offering him rustic gifts, such as a lamb or a goat.



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