This work was painted about 1482—when a team of Florentine and Umbrian painters were decorating the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Antoniazzo, a native of Rome, responded especially to the presence of Perugino and Ghirlandaio. He sets his depiction of the nativity—one of three scenes from the base (predella) of an altarpiece—in a landscape suggestive of Lazio, the region around Rome.
[Georges Brauer, Florence, 1906]
New York. IBM Gallery. "The Christmas Story in Art," December 13, 1965–January 8, 1966, no. 23.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Une image peut en cacher une autre: Arcimboldo, Dali, Raetz," April 8–July 6, 2009, no. 13.
"Principal Accessions." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 2 (February 1907), pp. 24, 27, ill., as by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo.
Bernhard Berenson. The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. New York, 1909, p. 135, lists it as a work by Antoniazzo Romano.
F. Mason Perkins. "Tre dipinti di Antoniazzo Romano." Rassegna d'arte umbra 2 (April 15, 1911), p. 36, as by Antoniazzo Romano.
Morton H. Bernath. New York und Boston. Leipzig, 1912, p. 74, agrees with the attribution to Antoniazzo.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 27.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 15, The Renaissance Painters of Central and Southern Italy. The Hague, 1934, p. 280 n., p. 292, fig. 178, as by the Master of the Gardner Annunciation.
F. Mason Perkins. Letter. March 24, 1938, confirms the attribution to Antoniazzo.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 108–9, ill., as by a follower of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo.
Murray Pease. "A Note on the Radiography of Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (January 1946), pp. 136–37, ill. (overall and details of x-ray and radiograph).
Margaret B. Freeman. "Shepherds in the Fields." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 11 (December 1952), p. 113, ill.
Federico Zeri. Letter. April 2, 1953, calls it a very fine Antoniazzo from about 1482 and identifies a Saint Jerome and the Lion (Ca' d'Oro, Venice) and Dance of Salome (Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin [now Gemäldegalerie]) as companion panels; notes that this predella apparently belonged to a triptych, which consisted of a Madonna and Child (present whereabouts unknown) as the central panel, flanked by Saints Jerome (then attributed to Palmezzano, Staedelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt) and John (in a private collection, Frankfurt, about 1920).
Federico Zeri. "Il Maestro della Annunciazione Gardner." Bollettino d'arte 38 (July–September 1953), pp. 247–49 n. 7, fig. 20, rejects attribution of this panel to the Master of the Gardner Annunciation [Ref. van Marle 1934] and ascribes the ensemble to which it belonged to Antoniazzo before 1485.
Ettore Camesasca. Tutta la pittura del Perugino. Milan, 1959, p. 156.
Enzo Carli. Il Pintoricchio. Milan, 1960, p. 22, as by Antoniazzo; accepts the connection with the Venice and Berlin panels.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 16.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 11, 269, 605.
Gisela Doerk Noehles. "Antoniazzo Romano: Studien zur Quattrocentomalerei in Rom." PhD diss., Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität zu Münster, 1973, pp. 87–88, 209, 217–18, 319, no. 70, fig. 61, rejects Zeri's association of this panel with those in Venice, Berlin and Frankfurt; doubts the attribution to Antoniazzo, suggesting that it was executed by an Umbrian painter.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, pp. 363, 541, fig. 144, discusses the symbolism of the straw in this panel.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools. New York, 1980, pp. 2–3, pl. 62, note that this panel and the related works in Venice and Berlin are "more distinctly Umbrian in feeling than most of Antoniazzo's works" and date them not far from 1482.
Gregory Hedberg. "Antoniazzo Romano and His School." PhD diss., New York University, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 171–72, 187, no. 24; vol. 2, fig. 61, comments that Antoniazzo may have adopted the unusual motif of a half-length figure of an angel in a cloud from Mantegna who was in Rome between 1488 and 1490; suggests that this panel, along with the "Feast of Herod and Beheading of St. John the Baptist" (Berlin [Gemäldegalerie?]) and the the "St. Jerome" (Ca' d'Oro, Venice), may have formed the predella for the "Madonna and Child in Glory with Saints John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Jerome and Paul" in the church of SS. Giovanni and Paolo, Rome.
Roberto Cannatà inUn'antologia di restauri: 50 opere d'arte restaurate dal 1974 al 1981. Exh. cat., Palazzo Barberini. Rome, 1982, p. 28, rejects the attribution of our panel, along with those in Venice and Berlin, to Antoniazzo.
Anna Cavallaro. Antoniazzo Romano e gli Antoniazzeschi: una generazione di pittori nella Roma del Quattrocento. Udine, 1992, p. 259, no. 133, fig. 218, questions the attribution to Antoniazzo and reproduces it as a work of the "scuola umbro-romano".
Antonio Paolucci. Antoniazzo Romano: catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1992, p. 69, no. 16, ill., regards the Berlin and Venice panels as "more generically Umbrian" than by a particular artist; sees in our panel Antoniazzo's debt to Florentine art, in particular Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Jean-Hubert Martin inUne image peut en cacher une autre: Arcimboldo, Dali, Raetz. Ed. Jean-Hubert Martin. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 2009, pp. IX, 16–17, no. 13, ill. (color detail), sees the profile of a human head in the rock at left.
This is the central panel of a three-part predella that originally included the Feast of Herod (Gemäldegalerie, SMPK, Berlin; no. S 4, 29 x 45 cm) and Saint Jerome Healing the Lion's Foot (Ca' d'Oro, Venice; no. 118, 29 x 45 cm). The fact that this panel portrays the Nativity indicates that the central panel of the altarpiece represented the Madonna and Child; this painting has not yet been identified. The wings, however, are known: a Saint John the Baptist (Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt; no. 1443, 125 x 54 cm) and a Saint Jerome (art market, Frankfurt, 1920).