Nativity of the Virgin


On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 20

In all probability, this unusual sculpture depicting Saint Anne lying on the birthing bed with the swaddled Virgin Mary came from the lower section (predella) of the late Gothic altarpiece dedicated to Saint Anne in the parish church at Ebern. After the altarpiece was
replaced in 1703, this work was retained. The bed’s legs, headboard, and tailboard were subsequently cut away, presumably to fit the sculpture into a different framework, as were two angels who knelt before the swaddled child, probably holding a crown over her head. (Remnants of the right angel’s wing are apparent.)
Burn marks from candles visible along the front edge indicate that the sculpture served as a devotional image. Much of the original paint as well as appliqués simulating a brocade pattern on the mantle of Saint Anne are preserved. Made of gesso overlaid with tin, then decorated with gold leaf, paint, and glazes, such brocade appliqués were in wide use in the late fifteenth century, particularly in Germany.

Nativity of the Virgin, Limewood with paint, German

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