Object Image

The Virgin adoring the Child with Saint Joseph

In this painting intended for private devotion, Fra Bartolommeo emphasises the humble circumstances of Christ's birth. The Virgin kneels on the ground before the newborn Christ, while barefoot Saint Joseph watches over the baby. The makeshift stable made from the ruins of a classical building stands behind them, outside the city walls of Bethlehem. In the background, an artist and his assistants paint a fresco above the city gate while young Saint John the Baptist walks away from Bethlehem, having escaped Herod's Massacre of the Innocents.

The composition is related to Fra Bartolommeo's Holy Family (Borghese Gallery, Rome) of about 1495. The unusual pose of the Virgin is derived from Leonardo'...

before 1511
Oil on wood
137.8 x 104.8cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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