Arts Everyday Living: Celebrating the Holidays in Art-A Country Nativity with Angels & Shepherds

Petrus Christus, The Nativity, c. 1450, oil on panel, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Title: The Nativity, c. 1450

Artist: Petrus Christus, 1444-1475/1476

The Nativity by Northern Renaissance artist Petrus Chistus is set in the countryside, where a youthful Mary and a grandfatherly Joseph* pray together over the newly born Jesus, almost doll-like in appearance. Lying separately on his mother’s velvety blue robe, His only protection from the hard dirt ground. The Holy Family is also joined by four angels who ordinarily would be hovering above, elevated by their elegantly shaped wings. Now they have descended to an earthly level, called by by a higher power to pay homage to the Christ Child. 

However, the shepherds are nearby, not yet invited into the gathering, perhaps disturbing the donkey just visible nearby. Conversing with each other as they patiently wait, blocked by the half-standing walls of the shed. An unusual structure, constructed of both wood and stone, barely sheltering its temporary occupants. Though the entrance is an elaborate archway, decorated with sculptured scenes of Genesis, signifying the Fall of Man with the figures of Adam and Eve at the base on either side. While above, our eye is drawn to the triangular form opening to azure skies and a hilly landscape, a long ago town possibly symbolizing Jerusalem in the distance. 

*During this period, Joseph was often portrayed as an older man. Notice his cane as well as sandal-like shoes that he has taken off in respect.



In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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Title: The Nativity

Artisti: Petrus Christus















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