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The Crack Magazine

We three kings.jpg

Myrhh Bang For Your Buck...

Gail-Nina Anderson is presenting ‘We Three Kings: The Imagery and Lore of the Magi’ – an illustrated lecture – at the Lit & Phil this December.

From sacred manuscripts to jokey Christmas cards, the arrival of the three kings who travel afar to worship baby Jesus is a central element in traditional representations of the Nativity. The fact that they only get a brief mention in one Gospel, as an unspecified number of Magi rather than a trio of Kings, doesn’t dim the colour and drama of their story and its innumerable depictions in art. In the spirit of the season, this talk explores the history of their legend and the diverse ways in which their image has developed through imagery, folklore and popular culture. It also reaches that little bit further – what makes this image so attractive? It often has a touch of the Aladdin panto vibe, an exercise in instant exoticism tailored for a western market. We don’t really know where the Wise men came from, but giving them brocade cloaks, jewelled turbans and a retinue of posh servants and exotic pets helps paint a picture of glittering luxury attractive to our consumerist society. In the school nativity play they offer the best costume opportunities, boys getting the chance to drape themselves in shiny fabric, girls exploring the allure of the beard. Their Christmas card splendour will probably grace your mantlepiece in December, so take this chance to consider why. Personally, I think it’s the expensive presents they bring. Or maybe the camels…

We Three Kings: The Imagery and Lore of the Magi, Thursday 15 December, Lit & Phil, Newcastle, 6pm, £5. litandphil.org.uk