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The Nativity
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Unknown
German, Hildesheim, about 1170s
Tempera colors, gold leaf, silver leaf, and ink on parchment
11 1/8 x 7 7/16 in.
MS. 64, FOL. 92

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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.

Detail Views

Saint John
Saint John

Moses
Moses

Gideon
Gideon

Ezekiel
Ezekiel

Top figure
Top figure