The Birth of the Virgin

Artist: Fra Carnevale (Bartolomeo di Giovanni Corradini) (Italian, born by 1416–died 1484 Urbino)

Date: 1467

Medium: Tempera and oil on wood

Dimensions: 57 x 37 7/8 in. (144.8 x 96.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Rogers and Gwynne Andrews Funds, 1935

Accession Number: 35.121


Breaking with convention, the artist shows the Madonna’s birth in contemporary terms. In the background the newborn baby is bathed by midwives while in the foreground women greet each other. The imposing palace, patterned on the Ducal Palace of Urbino, is decorated with reliefs derived from Roman sculpture. The picture is from an altarpiece commissioned in 1467 for Santa Maria della Bella in Urbino (a companion panel is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). In Florence, Fra Carnevale worked with Filippo Lippi; he also knew the paintings of Piero della Francesca and probably met the architect-theorist Leon Battista Alberti.