La Chevauchée des Rois Mages

Going to Dijon this weekend I visited the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Not only is it free but there are some incredible pieces exposed there. Authentic medieval swords, weapons and armors and finely sculpted tombs of the last duke and duchess of Burgundy.

One piece struck a debate among my friends and I: “La Chevauchée des Rois Mages”. A painting supposedly from 1460, by an anonymous painter only known as “Maître des Déplorations de Sarnen”.

According the museum this piece is oil on wood (if you get close you can see the 5 pieces of woods quite distinctly). Size is 128cm high by 95cm wide.

Upon seeing “La Chevauchée des Rois Mages” for the first time I immediately though “nah, can’t be that old”. Everything about it felt contemporary. Its colors are bright. The shape of the horses, demeanor of the monkey and body outlines of the three men feel closer to surrealism than Middle Age or even Renaissance.

I learned afterwards that this painting was restored in 2001-2004. Here’s a link to its official page on the Musée des Beaux-Arts' website.

I’ve also found a picture on an old version of their website of what the painting looked like before. I’ve put them side-by-side for easier comparison. Colors are quite different!

Side-by-side of the painting before and after its restoration

This of course explains part of the anachronism, but not all. Shapes were kept the same of course! This anonymous painter in the middle of Switzerland in the 15th century was well ahead of his time!

Here’s a link to a full-size photo of the painting that I took.