Photos by Scala/Art Resource

Three shadowy figures (shown here, compare with photo of the Catacomb of Priscilla) approach the Virgin and child, seated at right. Dating to the mid-third century C.E., this fresco from the Catacomb of Priscilla, one of Rome’s oldest Christian cemeteries, is the earliest known image of the magi.

The arrival of the magi is the most common scene of Jesus’ birth and childhood in early Christian art. In the first images, their appearance is regularized: They appear as three men, wearing short tunics and hats with soft peaks (see the remaining photos in this article). Mary is shown sitting, with Jesus on her lap.