The Nativity

Object Details


The Nativity


Spitz Master (French, active about 1415 - 1425)




Paris, France, Europe (Place created)


about 1420


Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment


Leaf: 20.2 × 14.9 cm (7 15/16 × 5 7/8 in.)

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The Nativity miniature opens Prime of the Hours of the Virgin, the customary position for this subject in books of hours. The text begins with a verse from Psalm 69, Deus in adiutorium meu[m] intende(God, come to my assistance). The anonymous artist known as the Spitz Master represented the Virgin Mary and Joseph kneeling in adoration before the baby Jesus, who is encircled by seraphim. Two shepherds humbly positioned behind a shed also kneel before the child. Above, surrounded by angels, God the Father raises his hand in blessing as rays of light fall on the child below. This holy group is contrasted with the figures worshipping a heathen idol in the distant landscape. The Spitz Master drew his basic composition from a Nativity miniature in a book of hours by the Limbourg Brothers, but he added to this the legend of the midwife Salome, who kneels behind the Virgin. She questioned the virgin birth of Jesus, and when she sought to examine Mary to test her doubts, her hands shriveled. Upon her recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, her hands were restored. The Spitz Master added a flying angel returning Salome's hands to her.

Related Works
Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts (1908)
  • Burlington Fine Arts Club (London), 1908
The Queen of the Angels (August 15 to November 5, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), August 15 to November 5, 2000
The Medieval Best Seller: Illuminated Books of Hours (October 29, 2002 to January 19, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 29, 2002 to January 19, 2003