The Nativity

Central Italy, 1376
Tempera on wood
Musei Capitolini, Rome

This Nativity harks back to some of the oldest iconography, with a seated Joseph with staff and a midwife preparing to bathe the child. But in many ways the image departs from tradition. As in images of Mary's own birth, the mother is in a normal bed and has servants to help her – one of whom is an angel! The treatment of the shepherds also departs from the usual by putting some of their sheep in a pen guarded by a dog, who appears to be barking at the angels in the sky. Similar dogs bark or bay at the angel in the Jean Poyet's Hours of Mary of England (Wieck, 26) and Andrea Orcagna's Birth of Jesus. However, dogs are not in evidence in any of the images I have seen of the shepherds' adoration at the manger.

Read more about images of the Nativity.

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