Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, Polyptych of the Nativity
Mid 15th century
The Cloisters, New York City
This is an image map. Click on any area to see an enlargement with commentary. Click on an arrow to see the reverse side of the panel shown, also with commentary.
Large altarpieces comprising three or more framed segments were a popular innovation of the 15th century. In this case, the polyptych has an "open state" (shown here) and a "closed state" in which the outer panels fold in over the inner ones, so that the Nativity scene is flanked by portraits of Saints Catherine and John the Baptist and the image of God the Father blessing the Nativity is covered by two panels picturing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden.
Gold ground was a common feature of altarpieces in the 14th century, especially in portraits. But it found less favor in the 15th. Here it is not used in the portraits of John and Catherine, only in the God the Father panel.
Read more about images of the birth of Jesus.
Photographed at the Cloisters by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.