Epiphany (Adoration of the Magi)

Epiphany (Adoration of the Magi)

Gottfried Helnwein, Austrian, 1948-
Born: Vienna, Austria
Work Locations: Los Angeles, CA, Ireland
United States
Oil and acrylic on canvas
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift from Vicki and Kent Logan to the Collection of the Denver Art Museum

Gottfried Helnwein (German, born 1948 in Vienna, Austria. Lives and works in Los Angeles and Ireland)
Epiphany (Adoration of the Magi), 1996
Oil and acrylic paint on canvas
82 3/4 x 131 in.
Gift from Vicki and Kent Logan to the Collection of the Denver Art Museum, 2001.741. © Gottfried Helnwein

height: 82.75 in, 210.1850 cm; width: 131 in, 332.7400 cm
Modern and Contemporary Art
Modern and Contemporary Art

Born in 1948, Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna where he received a number of prestigious awards. He has worked in a variety of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and installation.  Helnwein’s work is primarily concerned with psychological and sociological anxiety, historical issues and political topics. As a result of this, his work is often considered provocative and controversial.

Gottfried Helnwein’s Epiphany (Adoration of the Magi) is a strange take on a traditional New Testament theme in art. The work depicts a Madonna-like mother displaying her baby to attentive Nazi officers. But this is no traditional painting — its eerie, sinister overtones are unmistakable. The time frame has jumped to the period of the Third Reich. The figures of the officers are taken from a Nazi propaganda photograph that Helnwein reworked on the computer, transferred to canvas, and overpainted with acrylics and oils. While the mother looks much like an updated (Aryan) version of a sweet-faced Madonna from Renaissance paintings, the baby, with his full head of dark hair, looks strangely like an infant Hitler. With the work’s hyperrealist style and disturbing content, this unsettling work generates anxiety. The viewer is drawn in by both its beauty and its seductive, malevolent overtones. 


© Gottfried Helnwein

Exhibition History
  • "RADAR: Selections from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan"—Denver Art Museum, 10/07/2006 - 07/15/2007