By Jean Marie Carey

As foretold in Isaiah’s prophesy about the Messiah (Isaiah 1:3) and recounted in the Gospels, Christ’s life on earth began in a stable in Bethlehem. That miraculous birth is popularly celebrated today, 25 December. Late Medieval and Renaissance Italian painting tended to focus on the later events of the Passion, but many moving scenes of the Nativity were also produced, often focusing on delightful details such as the presence of the donkeys and oxen noted in the same passage form Isaiah or the contrast between the sumptuous appearance of the Magi and the humility of the Holy Family.

Reference: Jean Sorabella. “The Birth and Infancy of Christ in Italian Painting,” 2008. The Heilbrunn Timeline of art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.   

Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli , The Annunciation, c. 1550. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 1982.319.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Madonna and Child, c. 1290–1300. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 2004.442.

Zanobi Strozzi, The Nativity, c. 1450. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 24.22.

Andrea Mantegna, The Adoration of the Shepherds, c 1450. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 32.130.2.

Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia), The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1460. The Metropolitan Museum of Art . Accession Number: 1982.60.4.

Further Reading: Richard Harries. The Image of Christ in Modern Art. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2013.

Neil MacGregor. Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

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