The Adoration of the Magi “was the single most popular religious theme featuring blacks in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European art” (Blakely 84). Blakely analyzes how black people are portrayed by Dutch art, and notes that this is one of the few instances in which a black person is portrayed positively. In almost every work featuring this theme, “The black king was usually depicted as the youngest…[and] was also often strikingly handsome” (84-85). She argues the continued reverence for the African king is due both to the influence of Religion in early Dutch art as well as evolving European perceptions of black people.
Westermann’s analytical approach reflects on how artists and their customers use art to project authority. He would likely note the massive reproduction of this image as a function of the Church’s extensive patronage. He might attribute the black king’s continued portrayal as young and attractive to a desire for consistency and tradition, as well as an extra facet for the exultation of Jesus Christ. Finally, he would remark at how the king is furthest from the baby Jesus, a fact that could reflect the artist’s desire to portray white Christians as closer to God.