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Master of the Castello Nativity, 'The Nativity', about 1457

Key facts
Full title The Nativity
Artist Master of the Castello Nativity
Artist dates active mid 15th century
Date made about 1457
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 22.2 × 66.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir Henry Howorth through the Art Fund in memory of Lady Howorth, 1922
Inventory number NG3648
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Nativity
Master of the Castello Nativity

This scene shows the holy family – the Virgin Mary, Joseph and Jesus Christ – just after Christ’s birth in a stable. The artist has set the scene in surroundings familiar to contemporary viewers: the towers of a town that resembles fifteenth-century Tuscany are visible in the distance. On the hillside are two shepherds; one looks up towards golden rays that have appeared in the night sky. According to the Gospel of Luke, an angel appeared to them to announce Christ’s birth.

This picture comes from the predella (the lowest part) of an altarpiece made for Santi Giusto e Clemente in Faltugnano, Tuscany. Two other predella panels, both showing stories from the lives of the church’s patron saints, Giusto and Clemente, are now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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