Monday, January 6, 2014

Tissot's Three Wise Men


James Tissot (French, 1836-1902) painted this image of the journeying magi as part of a large collection of Biblical paintings that he did late in his career. His desire to paint scriptural scenes with archaeological accuracy brought him on several research trips to the Holy Land.

The Brooklyn Museum has a large collection of these paintings, and has exhibited and published them.

This painting is tiny, just 8 x 11 1/2 inches. (20.2 x 29.2 cm). It's painted in opaque watercolor, which lends itself to detailed handling and delicacy (those faces are less than a half inch tall). The yellow color of the robes suggests the luxurious contrast to the common peasant costumes, and conveys the status of the magi as astronomers.

Edit: There's also an oil version of the painting at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. (Thanks, Darren
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8 comments:

Tom Hart said...

I wonder if Darren (or you) know if the oil painting is much larger than the watercolor which seems remarkably small. If so, I'd guess that the watercolor is a study for the oil. (Searching the site at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I could see the image, but no dimension info...)

jeff jordan said...

The oil is fairly large, can't remember the size, 30" x 40" or thereabouts. I've spent a fair amount of time in front of it--really a beauty. In the same room is Gerome's "Rug Merchants of Cairo," one of his best. I've spent a LOT of time in front of that one..........

David Glenn said...

This painting is very interesting. I didn't know that yellow was a color associated with astronomers. Thanks for sharing.

Keith Parker said...

At first glance the picture seems way too credible looking to be that old. This guy was on top of his game. I would've easily thought this picture was painted in the last thirty years.

Shaun Stipick said...

As usual I'm blown away by your posts. What a beauty! Please correct me if I am wrong, but I am particularly amazed by the simplicity of palette. Love those blue-purple shadows, which are surprisingly gray but just "sing" with all that yellow-orange around them. Anyways, I'm in love!

Shaun Stipick said...

Out of curiosity, would it be a safe assumption, that the watercolor was painted as a study?

Simone said...

Nice way to honor the Epiphany of Our Lord, the Solemnity of which was Sunday. Thank you, James.

Madgenious said...

This painting has helped me to understand the wise men more than anything else. I am so grateful for the understanding this painting holds out to others, like me. Thanks. Janis Keller