In the Middle Ages, the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would spring from the family of Jesse, the father of David, was interpreted visually as a genealogical tree.

Here, typically, Jesse reclines at the base of the tree which issues from his loins. The ancestors of Christ are shown emerging from the branches of the tree which culminates in the Virgin and Child.

Most of the decorative passages are picked out in gold. The technique and the support are those used for manuscript illumination. The subject was more familiar in stained glass windows and large designs in mosaic or fresco than it was in smaller paintings.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1476 - 1551
Full title
A Jesse-Tree
Date made
about 1535
Medium and support
Gum or egg white? on parchment or paper
Dimensions
22.2 x 14 cm
Acquisition credit
Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number
NG3119
Location in Gallery