Object Image

The Nativity with the Infant Baptist and Shepherds

The Virgin Mary prays before the newborn Christ, who radiates heavenly light. Saint Joseph holds back the infant Saint John the Baptist, who holds a cross, a symbol of Christ's destiny. It is unusual to find the infant John the Baptist included in an image of the Nativity.

Two shepherds arrive on the left looking for the newborn Messiah. The lamb on the shepherd's shoulder is a gift but also acts as a symbol of Christ's identity as the 'lamb of God' who will be sacrificed for the salvation of humanity. In the background the angel appears to the shepherds in the sky to announce Christ's birth, and the Three Kings are guided by a star to Bethlehem.

This picture was probably not painted by Sodom...

probably c. 1540-60
Oil on poplar
119.7 x 96.5cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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