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Follower of Jacopo Tintoretto, 'The Nativity', about 1590

Key facts
Full title The Nativity
Artist Follower of Jacopo Tintoretto
Artist dates about 1518 - 1594
Date made about 1590
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 95.3 × 118 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir Henry Howorth through the Art Fund, in memory of Lady Howorth, 1922
Inventory number NG3647
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Nativity
Follower of Jacopo Tintoretto

Mary and Joseph kneel before the baby Jesus, who sleeps wrapped in a woven basket of sticks and straw. Joseph, the elderly carpenter, touches his rough fingers together in prayer. He holds a stick like those from which the basket is made, and two knives in a sheath lie in his lap. Mary presses her hands over her heart.

The stable is made of thatch over crude timber supports and the baby’s blanket is ragged and patched. Perhaps Joseph has cut the sticks with his knife and woven the simple wicker basket himself. A long swaddling cloth with a cord tie, in which the baby will be tightly bound, has been hung up to dry. The fresh cuts on the ends of the sticks are perilously sharp for a baby’s bed and, together with the knives and shroud-like swaddling cloth, hint at the pain of Christ’s Passion (his torture and crucifixion) that lies ahead.

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