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Follower of Jan Rombouts, Birth of the Virgin

Key facts
Full title Birth of the Virgin
Artist Follower of Jan Rombouts
Artist dates probably born soon after 1475; died 1535/6
Date made about 1520
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 71 × 45 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Presented in memory of Lady Howorth through the Art Fund, 1922
Inventory number NG3650
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Birth of the Virgin
Follower of Jan Rombouts

Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, sits in a large red bed. She seems to be handing her child to the midwife, while two women prepare to bath and swaddle the baby.

Through one window we see Noah in the stern of his ark, holding the white dove which he released three times to find out if land had emerged from the flood waters (Genesis 8: 8–12). Through the other we see an episode from the story of Balaam, an Old Testament seer who prophesised the birth of Christ to Balak, King of Moab: ‘A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel’ (Numbers 24: 17). In the Middle Ages Balaam’s star was understood as the Virgin Mary.

There are similarities between this picture and Birth of the Baptist (Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USA), which is twice monogrammed by Jan Rombouts. Our painting could be by one of Rombouts' assistants.

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