Zanobi Strozzi and Filippo di Matteo Torelli
The Nativity in an Initial H

Manuscript illumination
Convent of San Marco, Florence, Italy
Inv. San Marco e Cenacoli, 1915-24, no. 517

The composition follows the pattern established by the vision of Bridget of Sweden in the previous century. The child lies naked on the ground, emanating light; the Virgin Mary kneels in worship; and the birth is attended by the ox, ass, and angels. By the time of this image it had become customary to add St. Joseph. In this case, he still uses the hand-on-cheek gesture of more ancient images.

The great majority of Nativity images place the birth in either a cave or a stylized stable, but here the artists have adopted neither setting, although the viewer could imagine a cave in the hill behind the family.

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Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.