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The Nativity
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Jean Bourdichon
French, Tours, about 1480 -1485
Tempera colors and gold on parchment
6 7/16 x 4 9/16 in.
MS. 6, FOL. 51

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Jean Bourdichon followed the venerable tradition of using sumptuous gold, combining it with an interest in representing the natural world. He painted gold stars against the deep blue night sky and gold rays piercing through the roof of the manger and extending to the infant. From the child emanate more golden rays that light up the interior of the building and illuminate the figures of Mary and Joseph, reflected as highlights on their clothing. Bourdichon carefully observed how light acts in the physical world, but he also endowed that light with a spiritual quality, indicating its heavenly origin.

The miniature accompanies a verse from Psalm 69, which opens the prayers for Prime--as well as other hours--in the Hours of the Virgin: Deus in adiutorium meum intende. Domine ad adiuvandum me festina (God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me).