National Gallery: Sensing the Unseen - Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration'

A new immersive digital experience inspired by Jan Gossaert's 16th-century masterpiece The Adoration of the Kings will open at the National Gallery over the Christmas period.

Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration' will show one of the Gallery's most popular pictures as never before and is designed to allow for digital immersion while maintaining social distancing.

As visitors view the painting, the voice of one of its depicted characters, King Balthasar, will speak to them before light and sound lead them into individual 'pods' to experience an interactive version of the painting.

In the pods, visitors will encounter a large screen featuring a digital image of the painting which has been 'sonified' using ambient sound, poetic spoken word and music. Visitors will zoom into details of the painting in an aural and visual experience that places them in the world of the painting and helps them discover and navigate previously unseen elements. These include details that the artist playfully hid away as well as those that reveal the way he used individual brushstrokes and techniques such as blotted glazes to create intricate and highly wrought elements.

One of the great works of the Northern Renaissance, everything about the construction, composition, content and detail of this painting is designed to focus the viewer on the tiny naked Christ Child in the middle of a desolate scene of ruins. A picture of birth, death and renewal, its exaggerated use of space and perspective gives the sense that the whole world is coming to view this scene; the series of contrasts suggests a moment of significant change in a decaying world (such as the richly dressed kings pictured with dogs at their feet scrapping around amongst weeds and broken stones.)

The experience begins with the African king Balthasar's voice speaking of this transformative moment in time. As the king standing to the left of Mary and the baby Jesus, and with his attendant behind him, Balthasar is the character who best represents the journey to this point of revelation, as he waits in suspense to see the baby Jesus. The importance of Balthasar is highlighted by the fact that Gossaert signed the painting in two places - on his hat and on the collar of his attendant.

The exhibition explores approaches to both sound and interactive design and has been developed by an interdisciplinary team of Gallery experts, artists, designers, technologists and creatives working closely with our audiences.

Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration' is the first of a series of Room 1 exhibitions to be supported by the Capricorn Foundation, for the next three years in memory of the late Mr HJ Hyams.

It is curated by Dr Susan Foister, the Gallery's Deputy Director and Curator of Early Netherlandish and German Paintings.

Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration' runs from 9 December 2020 - 28 February 2021 in The National Gallery, Room 1 Admission free

This exhibition will be a free to enter experience, available to visitors who have booked Gallery Entry tickets as well as Titian and Artemisia exhibition tickets. Simply make your way to Gallery Room 1 to enjoy Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration'


The National Gallery -

Tags: National Gallery, Jan Gossaert, The Adoration of the Kings

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