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Ludovico Mazzolino, The Nativity with a Shepherd

Key facts
Full title The Nativity with a Shepherd
Artist Ludovico Mazzolino
Artist dates active 1504; died 1528?
Date made about 1506-7
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 39.4 × 34.3 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3114
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Nativity with a Shepherd
Ludovico Mazzolino

In this early work by Mazzolino, the Virgin Mary kneels in adoration of the newborn Christ, who reclines on a white cloth over a pillow of straw. The stable behind the Virgin is improvised from an ancient Roman building, represented only by a pier decorated with elegant carved ornament and by a parapet on which the slumbering Saint Joseph leans. The ox and the donkey are in a lean-to addition to the stable with an arched opening closed by a gate. Water flows under an arched stone bridge upon which a shepherd stands.

Christ raises his left hand rather than his right in blessing, which is unusual. Mazzolino often repeated figures from other compositions, sometimes in reverse. He may have worked from a pattern book, which explains why his paintings so frequently seem to be quirky, improvised assemblies of a set of motifs rather than coherent compositions.

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