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The Nativity of Jesus (Inv. 1890 no. 9305)

Central Russia

1725-1750 c.
Room 2
Tempera on wood
13.2 x 11 cm
1890 n.9305

This icon focuses on a single image, the nativity of Jesus and the adoration of the Magi, in line with a tradition well established in the Byzantine and Russian areas, though the composition is greatly simplified in its narrative elements. The Child is laid in a bed of straw, before which kneel the three wise men who have come from the East guided by the Star of Bethlehem, shining high in the centre. The Virgin Mary is depicted seated, rather than lying down as in the Byzantine tradition. This element likely stems from Western European icon styles introduced to Russia mainly through prints. The seat resembles a throne, alluding to the royal dignity of the Virgin. Finishing off the composition is the elderly spouse Joseph, depicted in a somewhat removed position to the right. The scene takes place in front of a grotto that opens into a mountainous landscape. The icon, characterised by reduced narrative elements and the striking chiaroscuro contrasts used to define the bodily shape, has features similar to those in the icon of the Annunciation (inv. 1890 no. 9334), which may have been executed in the same provincial workshop in central Russia. The identical figures of the enthroned Virgin, even in size, appear to derive from the same model.

Text by
Daniela Parenti
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