Skip to main content

Geertgen tot Sint Jans, The Nativity at Night

Key facts
Full title The Nativity at Night
Artist Geertgen tot Sint Jans
Artist dates about 1455/65; died about 1485/95
Date made possibly about 1490
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 34 × 25.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1925
Inventory number NG4081
Location Room 28
Collection Main Collection
The Nativity at Night
Geertgen tot Sint Jans

This painting shows the traditional Christmas story: the infant Christ, lying in the manger, is watched over by Mary, Joseph and adoring angels, while an ox and donkey peer out of the darkness behind. Through the crumbling back wall we see shepherds and their sheep up on the hills huddled around a fire, their dog beside them. They gaze up in awe at the shining angel in the sky above them.

The divine glow from the Christ Child is a pocket of light in the darkness, creating a sense of intimacy and awe which draws us into the scene. The idea of the night scene lit in this way was not Geertgen’s, but was based on two lost night-time Nativity scenes by Hugo van der Goes.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo