This sculpture is of one of the three Kings riding his horse on his way to Bethlehem. He points upwards with his left hand indicating the bright star that is guiding his way. This sculpture is created in Rheinland, Germany around 1450-1500 and has the original polychrome coloring.
It belonged to the collection of Friedrich Lippmann (1838-1903) who was director of the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin from 1878 until his death in 1903. He was a specialist in 15th and 16th century prints and drawings. During his Directorate he transformed the Kupferstichkabinett to one of the most renowned print rooms in Europe.
Lippmann’s famous private collection which for the most part consisted of early sculptures, paintings and works of art was auctioned in 1912 by Lepke in Berlin:
Sammlung des verstorbenen geheimen Regierungsrats und früheren Direktors des koenigl. Kupferstichkabinetts zu Berlin Friedrich Lippmann : Katalog mit 71 Lichtdrucktafeln. Versteigerung: Dienstag, den 26. November, Mittwoch, den 27. November, 1912.
Newspapers all over the world already wrote about this auction in August 1912:
“The sale will be an event of international importance for though the collection is small, every item is of the highest quality.”
Many pieces of this collection are now in museums. For example Lippmann’s painting by Hieronymus Bosch is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
According to the late owner, this statue was on loan to a Berlin Museum for 35 years.
Balthazar Caspar and Melchior were the three wise men who traveled to Bethlehem to worship the newborn child, who according to the prophecy was born the King of the Jews.
This statue is depicting one of them. The story is described in Matthew 2:1-12. The three wise men saw the star rise when the child was born and they travelled to Jerusalem.
Collection Friedrich Lippmann; Auction Rudolph Lepke’s Kunst-Auctions-Haus, 1912, lot 123; since 1993 Dutch private collection (purchased at TEFAF 1993)