Birth of the Virgin

The main scene shows the birth of the Virgin Mary. On the left is Noah with the dove in the ark (Old Testament, Genesis 8: 7-8) and on the right: the vision of Balaam (Old Testament, Numbers 24: 17). Inscriptions give the precise Biblical references. The star seen in the vision of Balaam was interpreted as a symbol of the birth of the Virgin. The story of the ark was seen as symbolic of the redemption that the Virgin would provide through her son Jesus Christ.

There are similarities with the 'Birth of the Baptist' in Pittsburg, monogrammed by Jan Rombouts, which is probably by assistants, although this work is weaker still. The headdress worn by the midwife is similar to many seen in paintings of the period around 1520 and associated with artists known as the ‘Antwerp Mannerists’.

Key facts

Artist dates
probably born soon after 1475; died 1535/6
Full title
Birth of the Virgin
Date made
about 1520
Medium and support
Oil on oak
71 × 45 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Presented in memory of Lady Howorth through The Art Fund, 1922
Inventory number
Location in Gallery