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Jacopo di Cione and workshop, 'The Nativity with the Annunciation to the Shepherds', 1370-1

Key facts
Full title The Nativity with the Annunciation to the Shepherds and the Adoration of the Shepherds: Upper Tier Panel
Artist Jacopo di Cione and workshop
Artist dates documented 1365; died 1398 -1400
Series The San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece
Date made 1370-1
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 95.5 × 49.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG573
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Nativity with the Annunciation to the Shepherds
Jacopo di Cione and workshop

This panel was the first in a series showing scenes from Christ’s life, the Resurrection and his ascension to heaven and was part of a four-tiered altarpiece made for the Florentine church of San Pier Maggiore. These panels sat above the main tier of images showing the heavenly coronation of the Virgin.

The scene shows the Christ Child in a manger, borrowed from the ox and donkey who sit nearby. The Virgin Mary sits on the ground worshipping the Child. Two shepherds, tucked around the corner of a craggy rock, look on and pray. In the hillside above, we see the moment when they were told about Christ’s birth: an angel has appeared to them, lighting up the night sky with a golden glow that colours the nearby trees. This is one of the earliest night scenes in a panel painting.

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The San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece


These images come from a large, four-tiered altarpiece created for the high altar of the choir of the church of San Pier Maggiore in Florence. It was made up of a number of separate panels, most of which are now in the National Gallery’s collection.

Although only the facade of the church remains today, it was one of the oldest and most important religious institutions in Florence when this altarpiece was made. It was founded by the first bishop of Florence, Saint Zenobius, in the fifth century. The picture formed the backdrop to one of the ceremonies relating to the ordination of each bishop of Florence until the late sixteenth century.

The altarpiece was most probably commissioned by the wealthy Florentine Albizzi family and many of its saints relate to their family or their trade as wool merchants. The central images showed the coronation of the Virgin by Christ surrounded by adoring saints – a highly popular image in Florence.