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The Nativity

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    late 14th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:

    A.92-1946

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This panel appears to be from the same altarpiece as the Resurrection panel, number A.110-1946, in the collection. This panel has a battlemented top and chamfered edges which indicate a late fourteenth century date. The Virgin Mary, haloed and wearing a gown and a cloak, sits up in bed which has a curtained canopy. St Joseph looks up to the top left of the panel, a cross staff in his left hand and his right arm raised. The small figure in the front of the image is that of the midwife, Salome with her right hand stretched out to the Child. In the front of the panel there is a detailed carving of the medieval cradle showing rockers, blankets and a tasselled pillow.

Physical description

The panel has a battlemented top and chamfered edges which indicate a late 14th-century date. The Virgin Mary, haloed and wearing a gown and a cloak, sits up in a bed which has a curtained canopy. She supports the figure of the Christ Child with her left hand, holding his feet with her right. He, wearing a gown, sits on a cloth. He holds an orb with his left hand, whilst his right rests on his mother's breast. The bearded figure of Joseph, wearing a hood with a liripipe, a gown and a cloak, stands at the back of the panel behind the ox and the ass who feed from a wattle manger. Joseph looks up to the top left of the panel, a cross-staff in his left hand, his right arm raised. The small figure of the midwife, Salome, wearing a fillet on her head and a high-necked gown, kneels by the bed, her right hand stretched out to the Child. Her left arm is extended towards the empty cradle. The medieval cradle, which is carved with a detailed realism, is on rockers and has blankets draped over it, with a tasselled pillow resting on top.

The head of the Christ Child is missing, as well as the head of the ox. The staff of Joseph's cross-staff is missing. His right hand and the midwife's left hand are missing. Two holes have been drilled in the battlementing. Many breaks have been repaired in the upper part of the panel. The top right of the panel is chipped.

Green paint and traces of the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground at the bottom of the panel. Red remains in the folds of the Virgin's cloak, brown on the cradle, black on Joseph's beard and the top of his cross-staff. There are traces of gilt on the clothes of the figures, on the coverings of the cradle and on the background, which also has traces of gesso knobs.

There is one hole drilled in the back of the panel. Alabaster has been chipped away at the bottom and to a lesser extent at the top of the panel.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

late 14th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

Dimensions

Height: 43 cm, Width: 28.2 cm

Object history note

Formerly in the collection of Count P. Biver. In the possession of P. Nelson from whom it was acquired by Dr W.L. Hildburgh. On loan from him since 1926. Given by Dr Hildburgh in 1946.

Descriptive line

Panel, alabaster, The Nativity, England, late 14th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 177 (cat. 104), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0

Materials

Alabaster; Paint; Gilt

Techniques

Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Staffs (walking sticks); Blanket; Bed; Gown; Halo; Ass; Ox; Cloak; Orb; Cradle; Pillow; Tassel; Canopy; Hood

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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