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The Nativity of Jesus has been a major subject of Christian art since the 4th century. The artistic depictions of the Nativity or birth of Jesus, celebrated at Christmas, are based on the narratives in the Bible, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and further elaborated by written, oral and artistic tradition. Christian art includes a great many representations of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. Such works are generally referred to as the "Madonna and Child" or "Virgin and Child". They are not usually representations of the Nativity specifically, but are often devotional objects representing a particular aspect or attribute of the Virgin Mary, or Jesus. Nativity pictures, on the other hand, are specifically illustrative, and include many narrative details; they are a normal component of the sequences illustrating both the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin.

The Nativity has been depicted in many different media, both pictorial and sculptural. Pictorial forms include murals, panel paintings, manuscript illuminations, stained glass windows and oil paintings. The subject of the Nativity is often used for altarpieces, many of these combining both painted and sculptural elements. Other sculptural representations of the Nativity include ivory miniatures, carved stone sarcophagi, architectural features such as capitals and door lintels, and free standing sculptures.

Free-standing sculptures of the Nativity often take the form of a "Creche" or "Presepe", which is a tableau or Nativity scene that are usually temporary fixtures within a church, home, public place or natural setting. The scale of the figures may range from miniature to life-sized. These Nativity Scenes probably derived from acted tableau vivants in Rome, although Saint Francis of Assisi gave the tradition a great boost. This tradition continues to this day, with many small Nativity Scenes being made commercially from porcelain, plaster, plastic or cardboard for display in the home.

The Nativity story

The stable is just outside the city walls, with the shepherds on the hill behind; Slovakia, c.1490
The scope of the subject matter which relates to the Nativity story begins with the genealogy of Jesus as listed in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke. This lineage, or family tree is often depicted visually with a Tree of Jesse, springing from the side of Jesse, the father of King David.

The Gospels go on to relate that a virgin, Mary, was betrothed to a man Joseph, but before she became fully his wife, an angel appeared to her, announcing that she would give birth to a baby who would be the Son of God. This incident, referred to as the Annunciation is often depicted in art. Matthew's Gospel relates that an angel dispelled Joseph's distress at discovering Mary's pregnancy, and instructed him to name the child Emmanuel (meaning "God with us"), and thus by naming the baby, taking responsibility for him. This scene is depicted only occasionally.

In Luke's Gospel, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehemmarker, the family of Joseph's ancestors, to be listed in a tax census; the Journey to Bethlehem is a very rare subject in the West, but shown in some large Byzantine cycles. While there, Mary gave birth to the infant, in a stable, because there was no room available in the inns. At this time, an angel appeared to shepherds on a hillside, telling them that the "Saviour, Christ the Lord" was born. The shepherds went to the stable and found the baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the feed trough, or "manger", as the angel had described.

In the liturgical calendar, the Nativity is followed by the Circumcision of Christ on January 1, which is not actually mentioned in the Gospels, but is assumed to have taken place according to Jewish law and custom, and the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (or "Candlemas"), celebrated on February 2, and described by Luke. Both have iconographic traditions, not covered here.

The narrative is taken up in the Gospel of Matthew, and relates that "wise men" from the east saw a star, and followed it, believing it would lead them to a new-born king. On arriving in Jerusalem they proceed to the palace where a king might be found, and enquire from the resident despot, King Herod. Herod is worried about being supplanted, but he sends them out, asking them return when they have found the child. They follow the star to Bethlehem, where they give the child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The men are then warned in a dream that Herod wished to kill the child, and so return to their country another way. Although the gospel mentions neither the number or status of the wise men, known as "the Magi", tradition has extrapolated that since there were three gifts, there were three wise men, who are generally also given the rank of king, and so they are also called the "Three Kings". It is as kings that they are almost always depicted in art after about 900. There are a number of subjects but the Adoration of the Magi, when they present their gifts, and, in Christian tradition, worship Jesus, has always been much the most popular.

Either the Annunciation to the Shepherds by the angel, or the Adoration of the Shepherds, which shows the shepherds worshipping the infant Christ, have often been combined with the Nativity proper, and the visit of the Magi, since very early times. The former represented the spreading of the message of Christ to the Jewish people, and the latter to the heathen peoples.

Image:Magi (1).jpg|Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravennamarker, the Magi presenting their gifts (mosaic detail), late 6th century, wearing Persian dressImage:Sassetta 004.jpg|Sassetta, the Journey of the MagiImage:Magi Herod MNMA Cl23532.jpg|The Magi before Herod, French 15th century stained glassImage:Albrecht Altdorfer 006.jpg|Albrecht Altdorfer, ca. 1530, the Adoration of the Magi
There are also many detailed series of artworks, ranging from stained glass to carved capitals to fresco cycles that depict every aspect of the story, which formed part of both of the two most popular subjects for cycles: the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin. It is also one of the Twelve Great Feasts of Eastern Orthodoxy, a popular cycle in Byzantine art.

The story continues with King Herod asking his advisers about ancient prophesies describing the birth of such a child. As a result of their advice, he sends soldiers to kill every boy child under the age of two in the city of Bethlehem. But Joseph has been warned in a dream, and flees to Egypt with Mary and the baby, Jesus. The gruesome scene of the Massacre of the Innocents, as the murder of the babies is generally referred, was particularly depicted by Early Renaissance and Baroque painters. The Flight into Egypt was another popular subject, showing Mary with the baby on a donkey, led by Joseph (borrowing the older iconography of the rare Byzantine Journey to Bethlehem).
From the 15th century in the Netherlands onwards, it was more usual to show the non-Biblical subject of the Holy Family resting on the journey, the Rest on the Flight to Egypt, often accompanied by angels, and in earlier images sometimes an older boy who may represent a son of Joseph, by a previous marriage. The background to these scenes usually (until the Council of Trent tightened up on such additions to scripture) includes a number of apocryphal miracles, and gives an opportunity for the emerging genre of landscape painting. In the Miracle of the corn the pursuing soldiers interrogate peasants, asking when the Holy Family passed by. The peasants truthfully say it was when they were sowing their wheat seed; however the wheat has miraculously grown to full height. In the Miracle of the idol a pagan statue falls from its plinth as the infant Jesus passes by, and a spring gushes up from the desert (originally separate, these are often combined). In further, less commonly seen, legends a group of robbers abandon their plan to rob the travellers, and a date palm tree bends down to allow them to pluck the fruit.

Another subject is the meeting of the infant Jesus with his cousin, the infant John the Baptist, who, according to legend was rescued from Bethlehem before the massacre by the Archangel Uriel, and joined the Holy Family in Egypt. This meeting of the two Holy Children was to be painted many artists during the Renaissance period, after being popularized by Leonardo da Vinci and then Raphael.

History of the Depiction

Early Christianity

Magi bearing gifts, 4th century sarcophagus, Rome
In the first centuries of Christianity the feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the visit of the Biblical Magi, was more important than Christmas. The first record we have of the celebration of Christmas dates from 354 and the earliest pictorial representations of Jesus' Nativity come from sarcophagi in Romemarker and Southern Gaul of around this date. They are later than the first scenes of the Adoration of the Magi, which appears in the catacombs of Rome, where Early Christians buried their dead, often decorating the walls of the underground passages and vaults with paintings. Many of these predate the legalisation of Christian worship by the Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century. Typically the Magi move in step together, holding their gifts in front of them, towards a seated Virgin with Christ on her lap. They closely resemble the motif of tribute-bearers which is common in the art of most Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cultures, and goes back at least two millennia earlier in the case of Egypt; in contemporary Roman art defeated barbarians carry golden wreaths towards an enthroned Emperor.

The earliest representations of the Nativity itself are very simple, just showing the infant, tightly wrapped, lying near the ground in a trough or wicker basket. The ox and ass are always present, even when Mary or any other human is not. Although they are not mentioned in the Gospel accounts they were regarded as confirmed by scripture from some Old Testament verses, such as Isaiah 1,3:"The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib" and Habakkuk 3,2: "in the midst of the two beasts wilt thou be known", and their presence was never questioned by theologians. They were regarded by Augustine, Ambrose and others as representing the Jewish people, weighed down by the Law (the ox), and the pagan peoples, carrying the sin of idolatery (the ass). Christ was arrived to free both from their burdens. Mary is only shown when the scene is the Adoration of the Magi, but often one of the shepherds, or a prophet with a scroll, is present. From the end of the fifth century (following the Council of Ephesus), Mary becomes a fixture in the scene; then as later Joseph is a more variable element. Where a building is shown, it is usually a tugurium, a simple tiled roof supported by posts.

Byzantine image

Modern Orthodox mural from Israel using a depiction little changed in over a millennium
A new form of the image, which from the rare early versions seems to have been formulated in sixth-century Palestine, was to set the essential form of Eastern Orthodox images down to the present day. The setting is now a cave - or rather the specific Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem, already underneath the Church of the Nativitymarker, and well-established as a place of pilgrimage, with the approval of the Church. Above the opening a mountain, represented in miniature, rises up. Mary now lies recovering on a large stuffed cushion or couch ("kline" in Greek) beside the infant, who is on a raised structure, whilst Joseph rests his head on his hand. He is often part of a separate scene in the foreground, where Jesus is being bathed by midwives (Jesus is therefore shown twice). The midwife or midwives come from early apocryphal sources; the main one is usually called Salome, and has her own miracle of the withered hand, although this is rare in art. They featured in most medieval dramas and mystery plays of the Nativity, which often influenced painted depictions. Several apocryphal accounts speak of a great light illuminating the scene, also taken to be the star of the Magi, and this is indicated by a circular disc at the top of the scene, with a band coming straight down from it - both are often dark in colour.

The Magi may be shown approaching at the top left on horseback, wearing strange pillbox-like headgear, and the shepherds at the right of the cave. Angels usually surround the scene if there is room, including the top of the cave; often one is telling the shepherds the good news of Christ's birth. An old man, often dressed in animal skins, who sometimes addresses Joseph in later Orthodox depictions, is usually interpreted as the Prophet Isaiah, or a hermit repeating his prophecy.

Byzantine and Orthodox tradition

Image:Life Christ Louvre OA5004.jpg|Scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, triptych. Constantinople, late 10th c., ivory. Musée du LouvremarkerImage:Meister der Peribleptos-Kirche in Mistra 001.jpg|Byzantine fresco from Mistramarker, Greece, mid-14th centuryImage:RozdestvoHristovo RublevBlagSoborMK.jpg|Andrey Rublev, 1405, in the Moscow Kremlinmarker.Image:Iconnativity.jpg|Modern Romanianmarker icon, with very similar iconography to Rublev, but a few Western elements, like the kneeling Virgin.

Late Byzantine tradition in Western Europe

Image:'The Virgin and Child in Majesty and the Adoration of the Maji', Romanesque fresco by the Master of Pedret from the apse of the Church of Saint Joan at Tredos, Lleida, Spain, c. 1100.jpg|The Virgin and Child in Majesty and the Adoration of the Magi, Romanesque fresco, Spain, c. 1100Image:Meister der Palastkapelle in Palermo 001.jpg|Mosaic in Byzantine style, Palermomarker, 1150Image:San.Maria.Trastevere.jpg|Medieval mosaics of Santa Maria in Trasteveremarker, Rome, are more classicising in style.Image:Maesta3.jpg|Nativity from Duccio’s Maestá, 13th century, a compromise shed-within-a-cave

Western image

The West adopted many of the Byzantine iconographic elements, but preferred the scriptural stable to the cave, though Duccio's Byzantine-influenced Maestà version tries to have both. The midwives gradually dropped out from Western depictions, as Latin theologians disapproved of these legends; sometimes the bath remains, either being got ready or with Mary bathing Jesus. The midwives are still seen where Byzantine influence is strong, especially in Italy; as in Giotto, one may hand Jesus over to his mother. During the Gothic period, in the North earlier than in Italy, increasing closeness between mother and child develops, and Mary begins to hold her baby, or he looks over to her. Suckling is very unusual, but is sometimes shown.

The image in later medieval Northern Europe was often influenced by the vision of the Nativity of Saint Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), a very popular mystic. Shortly before her death, she described a vision of the infant Jesus as lying on the ground, and emitting light himself, and describes the Virgin as blond-haired; many depictions reduced other light sources in the scene to emphasize this effect, and the Nativity remained very commonly treated with chiaroscuro through to the Baroque. Other details such as a single candle "attached to the wall", and the presence of God the Father above, also come from Bridget's vision:
...the virgin knelt down with great veneration in an attitude of prayer, and her back was turned to the manger....
And while she was standing thus in prayer, I saw the child in her womb move and suddenly in a moment she gave birth to her son, from whom radiated such an ineffable light and splendour, that the sun was not comparable to it, nor did the candle that St. Joseph had put there, give any light at all, the divine light totally annihilating the material light of the candle....
I saw the glorious infant lying on the ground naked and shining.
His body was pure from any kind of soil and impurity.
Then I heard also the singing of the angels, which was of miraculous sweetness and great beauty...
After this the Virgin kneels to pray to her child, to be joined by St Joseph, and this (technically known as the Adoration of the Child) becomes one of the commonest depictions in the fifteenth century, largely replacing the reclining Virgin in the West. Versions of this depiction occur as early as 1300, well before Bridget's vision, and have a Franciscan origin.


Saint Joseph, traditionally regarded as an old man, is often shown asleep in Nativities, and becomes a somewhat comical figure in some depictions, untidily dressed, and unable to help with proceedings. In medieval mystery plays, he was usually a comic figure, amiable but somewhat incapable, although he is sometimes showing cutting up his hose to make the swaddling-cloth for the child, or lighting a fire. However his cult was increasingly promoted in the late Middle Ages in the West, by the Franciscans and others (his feast was only added to the Roman Breviary in 1479). By the fifteenth century he is often more dignified, and this improvement continued through the Renaissance and Baroque, until a resurgence of Marian emphasis in the 17th century again often leaves him stranded on the margins of Nativity compositions. The candle lit by St Joseph in Bridget's vision becomes an attribute, which he is often shown holding, lit or unlit, in broad daylight.

In a fully illuminated Book of hours it was normal to include pages illustrating all four of the Nativity, the Announcement to the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi and the Flight into Egypt (and/or the Massacre of the Innocents) as part of the eight images in the sequence of the Hours of the Virgin. Nativity images became increasing popular in panel paintings in the 15th century, although on altarpieces the Holy Family often had to share the picture space with donor portraits. In Early Netherlandish painting the usual simple shed, little changed from Late Antiquity, developed into an elaborate ruined temple, initially Romanesque in style, which represented the dilapidated state of the Old Covenant of the Jewish law. The use of Romanesque architecture to identify Jewish rather than Christian settings is a regular feature of the paintings of Jan van Eyck and his followers. In Italian works the architecture of such temples became classical, reflecting the growing interest in the ancient world. An additional reference made by these temples was to the legend, reported in the popular compilation of the Golden Legend, that on the night of Christ's birth the Basilica of Maxentiusmarker in Rome, supposed to house a statue of Romulus, had partly tumbled to the ground, leaving the impressive ruins that survive today.


Early Medieval Western images

Image:KellsFol007vMadonnaChild.jpg|The earliest Western Madonna and Child, from the Book of Kells, at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. ca. 800Image:BambergApocalypse07NativityAnnucToShepherds.JPG|Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds from the Bamberg Apocalypse 1000-20, OttonianImage:NOR1419Kapitell IV.jpg|Romanesque capital from Saint-Pierre, Chauvignymarker, 12th century.Image:Codex Bruchsal 1 11r.jpg|German illuminated manuscript with two scenes of the Magi, ca. 1220


Image:France Paris St-Denis Basilica Nativity.jpg|12th century glass from Basilica of Saint Denismarker, Paris, with a proper bed for MaryImage:Canterbury Cathedral 021 Poor mans Bible window upper half.JPG|13th century French glass at Canterbury Cathedralmarker with the full story of the Magi and typologically related scenes.Image:Nativity alabaster MNMA Cl23755.jpg|English alabaster with Mary in a bed, attended by a midwife.Image:Ivory tabernacle Louvre OA2587.jpg|14th century French ivory triptych showing the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity with, unusually, Joseph holding the baby, while Mary sleeps; Presentation and Magi.

International Gothic

Image:Melchior Broederlam 003.jpg|Presentation at the Temple and Flight, with legends of the idol and spring, Melchior Broederlam, Burgundy, c. 1400Image:Folio 57r - The Flight into Egypt.jpg|The miracles of the palm tree and corn on the Flight, from a book of hours, ca. 1400Image:Conrad von Soest 004.jpg|In this panel by Conrad von Soest 1403, St Joseph makes himself useful.Image:Mittelrheinischer Meister um 1420 001.jpg|A greater degree of sentimental elaboration is in this German miniature of 1420.

Proto-Renaissance in Italy

Image:Pisa.Baptistery.pulpit02.jpg|Pulpit Relief from the Pisamarker Baptistrymarker by Nicola Pisano, 1260, is based in style on the reliefs of Roman sarcophagi.Image:Giotto - Scrovegni - -17- - Nativity, Birth of Jesus.jpg|The Nativity in the Scrovegni Chapelmarker by Giotto is very close in composition and style to the sculpture at Pisa.Image:Bernardo Daddi 001.jpg|Bernardo Daddi was influenced towards realism by the paintings of Giotto.Image:Gaddi Taddeo Announcement.jpg|Taddeo Gaddi painted the first large night scene in this "Annunciation to the Shepherds".

Renaissance and after

From the fifteenth century onwards, the Adoration of the Magi increasingly became a more common depiction than the Nativity proper, partly as the subject lent itself to many pictorial details and rich colouration, and partly as paintings became larger, with more space for the more crowded subject. The scene is increasingly conflated with the Adoration of the Shepherds from the late Middle Ages onwards, though they have been shown combined on occasions since Late Antiquity. In the West the Magi developed large exotically-dressed retinues, which sometimes threaten to take over the composition by the time of the Renaissance; there is undoubtedly a loss of concentration on the religious meaning of the scenes in some examples, especially in fifteenth century Florencemarker, where large secular paintings were still a considerable novelty. The large and famous wall-painting of the Procession of the Magi in the Magi Chapelmarker of the Palazzo Medicimarker there, painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1459-1461 and full of portraits of the family, only reveals its religious subject by its location in a chapel, and its declared title. There are virtually no indications that this is the subject contained in the work itself.
From the sixteenth century plain Nativities with just the Holy Family, become a clear minority, though Caravaggio led a return to a more realistic treatment of the Adoration of the Shepherds. The compositions, as with most religious scenes, becomes more varied as artistic originality becomes more highly regarded than iconographic tradition; the works illustrated by Gerard van Honthorst, Georges de La Tour, and Charles Le Brun of the Adoration of the Shepherds all show different poses and actions by Mary, none quite the same as the traditional ones. The subject becomes surprisingly uncommon in the artistic mainstream after the eighteenth century, even given the general decline in religious painting. Edward Burne-Jones, working with Morris & Co., produced major works on the theme, with a set of stained glass windows at Trinity Church, Bostonmarker (1882), a tapestry of the Adoration of the Magi (ten copies, from 1890) and a painting of the same subject (1887). Popular religious depictions have continued to flourish, despite the competition from secular Christmas imagery.

Early Renaissance

Image:Fra Angelico 013.jpg|Adoration of the Magiby Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo LippiImage:Piero della Francesca 041.jpg|Piero della Francesca (unfinished)Image:Domenico Ghirlandaio 001.jpg|Domenico Ghirlandaio, with classical ruinsImage:AdorationMagi.jpg|Botticelli; his patrons, the Medici family, are depicted as the Magi and their retinue.

High Renaissance

Image:LaVerna SantaMaria3.jpg|This terracotta relief by Giovanni della Robbia shows the Christ Child as part of the Holy Trinity, adored by Mary, Joseph and Franciscan saints.Image:Leonardo da Vinci Adoration of the Magi.jpg|This complex Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci was never completed.Image:Michelangelo_Buonarroti_046.jpg|The Doni Tondo represents the Holy Family resting on the way to Egypt; Michelangelo.Image:Raffael 030.jpg|The meeting of the Infant Christ and John the Baptist was a popular subject of Raphael.

Renaissance in Northern Italy

Image:Andrea Mantegna The Adoration of the Shepherds.jpg|Adoration of the Shepherds, MantegnaImage:Giorgione 014.jpg|Giorgione, Nativity, ca. 1507Image:Giorgione 010.jpg|Giorgione, Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1505Image:Lorenzo Lotto 017.jpg|Lorenzo Lotto, 1523

Northern Renaissance

Image:Ellhofen Altar links unten 20060914.jpg|Ellhofen Altarpiece, Germany, following St Bridget's vision.

Image:BruynAltar01.jpg|Bartholomäus Bruyn Altarpiece, St. Johann Baptist EssenImage:Joachim Patinir 002.jpg|Joachim Patinir, Flight into Egypt. At right the miracle of the corn, at top left the falling idolImage:Pieter Bruegel d. Ä. 002.jpg|Pieter Bruegel


Image:Worship of the shepherds by bronzino.jpg|Adoration of the Shepherds, BronzinoImage:Dirck Barendsz Drieluik Sint Janskerk Gouda.jpg|Dirck Barendsz, 1565, Janskerk markerImage:Jacopo da Ponte 003.jpg|Jacopo Bassano, the Adoration of the Magi.Image:Andreadasalerno.jpg|Andrea Sabbatini

Baroque and Rococo

Image:Adoracion de los Reyes magos1.jpg|El Greco, Adoration of the Shepherds lit by the Christ ChildImage:Peter Paul Rubens 009.jpg|Adoration of the Magi, Rubens, 1634Image:Gerard van Honthorst 001.jpg|Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherds, still influenced by St. BridgetImage:Charles_Le_Brun.jpg|Adoration of the Shepherds, Charles Le Brun

After 1800

Image:Philipp Otto Runge 004.jpg|Romantic Rest on the Flight by Philipp Otto Runge, 1806Image:Adrian Ludwig Richter 022.jpg|Another by Adrian Ludwig Richter, 1873Image:Die Flucht nach Aegypten (Spitzweg).jpg|Flight by Carl Spitzweg, 1875-9Image:Edwin Longsden Long - Anno Domini.jpg|British Orientalist artist Edwin Long, Anno Domini, 1883, shows the arrival in Egypt; the idols seem intact.Image:Koelner Dom - Bayernfenster 10.jpg|Late 19th century stained glass of The Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi, Cologne Cathedralmarker.Image:Magi tissot.jpg|The Journey of the Magi by James Tissot, 1894. Like most of his Biblical illustrations, treated largely as Orientalism

Image:Paul Gauguin 061.jpg|Paul Gauguin, 1896, with a Tahitanmarker setting.Image:Adolf Hölzel Anbetung.jpg|Adolf Hölzel, 1912

Popular art

Image:Kempele Church Paintings 2006 07 24 B.JPG|Folk painting, 17th century, by Mikael ToppeliusImage:8452 - Milano - S. Marco - Londonio - Presepe (ca 1750) - Foto G. Dall'Orto - 14-Apr-2007.jpg|Presepe by Francesco Landonio around 1750Image:The visit of the wise-men.jpg|Bible illustration c.1900Image:Nativity Egan 2.jpg|A Nativity Creche made by Bill Egan of Florida, 21st century.

See also


Modern stained glass from the Taufkapelle, Koblenz-Arenberg
  1. Matthew:1:23. The name Jesus is the Biblical Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua meaning "God, our salvation". No explanation is given in the Gospels as to why this name is used.
  2. Schiller:58
  3. The dates vary slightly between churches and calendars - see the respective articles. In particular, the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the visit of the Magi, as well as the Nativity, on December 25th of their liturgical calendar, which is January 7th of the usual Gregorian calendar.
  4. Schiller:105
  5. Schiller:60
  6. The subject only emerges in the second half of the fourteenth century. Schiller:124. In some Orthodox traditions the older boy is the one who protects Joseph from the "shepherd-tempter" in the main Nativity scene.
  7. Schiller:117-123. The date palm incident is also in the Quran. There are two different falling statue legends, one related to the arrival of the family at the Egyptian city of Sotina, and the other usually shown in open country. Sometimes both are shown.
  8. See, for example, Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks
  9. Schiller:59
  10. Schiller:100
  11. Schiller:60. In fact this sense of the Habakkuk is found in the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, but Jerome's Latin Vulgate, followed by the Authorised Version, translates differently:"O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known" in the AV
  12. Schiller:59-62
  13. The mountain follows Scriptural verses such as Habakkuk 3.3 "God [came] from Mount Paran", and the title of Mary as "Holy mountain". Schiller:63
  14. partly reflecting the arrangement in the Church of the Nativity, where pilgrims already peered under an altar into the actual cave (now the altar is much higher). The actual altar is sometimes shown. Schiller:63
  15. Schiller:62-3
  16. Schiller:62-63
  17. Schiller:66 Though when addressing Joseph he has sometimes been regarded as the "Tempter" (the "shepherd-tempter"), the Orthodox term for Satan, who is encouraging Joseph to doubt the Virgin Birth. In later works a young man may fend the tempter off. See: Léonid Ouspensky, The Meaning of Icons, p.160, 1982, St Vladimir's Seminary, ISBN 0-913836-99-0. In pp.157-160 there is a full account of the later Orthodox iconography of the Nativity.
  18. Schiller:74
  19. Quoted Schiller:78
  20. Schiller:76-8
  21. from about 1400; apparently this detail comes from popular songs. Schiller:80
  22. Harthan, John, The Book of Hours,p.28 , 1977, Thomas Y Crowell Company, New York, ISBN 0-690-01654-9
  23. Schiller, pp. 49-50. Purtle, Carol J, Van Eyck's Washington 'Annunciation': narrative time and metaphoric tradition, p.4 and notes 9-14, Art Bulletin, March, 1999. Page references are to online version. online text. Also see The Iconography of the Temple in Northern Renaissance Art by Yona Pinson
  24. Schiller:91-82
  25. Lloyd, Christopher, The Queen's Pictures, Royal Collectors through the centuries, p.226, National Gallery Publications, 1991, ISBN 0-947645-89-6. In fact the Basilica was built in the 4th century. Some later painters used the remains as a basis for their depictions.


G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I,1971 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, pp. 58-124 & figs 140-338, ISBN 853312702

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