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Giovanni Battista Pittoni, The Nativity with God the Father and the Holy Ghost

Key facts
Full title The Nativity with God the Father and the Holy Ghost
Artist Giovanni Battista Pittoni
Artist dates 1687 - 1767
Date made about 1740
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 222.7 × 153.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a contribution from the Art Fund, 1958
Inventory number NG6279
Location Room 39
Collection Main Collection
The Nativity with God the Father and the Holy Ghost
Giovanni Battista Pittoni

In this altarpiece, Pittoni has depicted both the Nativity (the birth of Christ and his adoration) and the Trinity (God the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit) – an unusual, but not unique, combination. It was painted around 1740, though we don‘t know for which church it was commissioned.

Saint Joseph is slumped in a chair sleeping deeply, while the Virgin Mary kneels in adoration of the Christ Child: together they form the ’Earthly Trinity‘. Above, among glowing clouds, we see God the Father and the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove hovering above the infant Christ, making up the ’Heavenly Trinity'.

Colour distinguishes the heavenly realm from the earthly: Pittoni has contrasted the strong blues and greys of the draperies worn by the Virgin and Joseph with the pale tones of God and the angel. The heavenly realm is filled with ethereal light that falls on the holy family and the rustic, straw-filled manger.

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