The Nativity

Object Details

Title:

The Nativity

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

German

Place(s):

Hildesheim, Germany (Place created)

Date:

probably 1170s

Medium:

Tempera colors, gold leaf, silver leaf, and ink on parchment

Dimensions:

Leaf: 28.2 x 18.9 cm (11 1/8 x 7 7/16 in.)

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A full-page miniature prefaces the prayers said by the priest during Mass on Christmas day. The reclining Virgin and newborn Christ Child occupy the center of the page, surrounded by figures bearing scrolls with Old Testament passages referring to those chosen to lead the Jewish people–Moses and Gideon–and to the coming of the Messiah. At the lower right, a virgin has captured a unicorn. This scene refers to the medieval belief that a unicorn could only be caught by a virgin who entices the animal to lay its head in her lap, just as the Messiah could only be born of a virgin.

Related Works
Exhibitions
Ritual Splendor: Illuminated Liturgical Manuscripts (February 20 to May 6, 2001)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 20 to May 6, 2001