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In the Middle Ages, the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would spring from the family of Jesse, the father of David, was interpreted visually as a family tree. Here, Jesse lies at the base of the tree which grows from his loins. The ancestors of Christ are shown emerging from the branches of the tree, the uppermost of which is occupied by the Virgin and Christ Child.
The painting was once believed to be by the miniaturist Giulio Clovio, but there is no evidence to suggest this was the case. It is more likely to be a late work by the Urbino artist Girolamo Genga.
Gum or egg white? on parchment or paper
H 22.2 x W 14 cm
Layard Bequest, 1916