Skip to main content
The Nativity
Piero della Francesca
/

A ramshackle and ruined brick lean-to on top of an exposed rocky outcrop represents the stable in which Christ was born, emphasising the poverty and humility of his birth. The Virgin Mary has spread out her cloak to protect her newborn son’s skin from the bare earth, a pose inspired by the miraculous vision of Saint Bridget of Sweden (accounts of her experience were widely read in the fifteenth century).

Behind the Virgin are two shepherds, while Joseph, her husband, is seated on the donkey’s saddle. A group of angels playing lutes and singing provide a heavenly soundtrack to this otherwise rustic scene.

Piero made this picture for his family palace in his hometown of Sansepolcro. Once thought to be unfinished, it was, in fact, damaged by restoration before it entered the National Gallery’s collection.

Key facts
Artist Piero della Francesca
Artist dates about 1415/20 - 1492
Full title The Nativity
Date made 1470-5
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 124.4 x 122.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1874
Inventory number NG908
Location in Gallery Room 66
Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download an 800px wide, 72dpi copy of this image.

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.

Yes, I'd like to donate
Or
Download low resolution image

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

Creative Commons Logo