Bartolo di Fredi
The Adoration of the Shepherds

1374
Tempera on wood, gold ground, arched top. Overall: 69⅛ x 45⅛ in. (175.6 x 114.6 cm.). Painted surface: 63¼ x 45⅛ in. (160.7 x 114.6 cm.)
The Cloisters, New York City, 25.120.288

The manger is placed in a combination of a Byzantine cave and a Latin stable. The midwives traditional in Byzantine and early Latin Nativities are absent.

As in images inspired by St. Bridget of Sweden's vision of the Nativity (shortly before 1373), Joseph and Mary kneel in adoration. But in other respects Bridget's influence is not apparent. The principals are not inside the cave, there is no candle, and Mary has not removed her mantle.

In the arc above the main scene, angels announce the birth to the shepherds, who in the lower right have come to adore the child. The shape in front of the older shepherd, looking like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, may be an attempt to separate the shepherds from the main scene. Such walls are sometimes seen in late-medieval Nativities: see the section on the shepherds in our study of Nativity iconography.

Read more about the Nativity.

Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art