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The painting depicts the nativity, not in a stable, but in some classical ruins, probably a decaying temple intended to symbolise the decline of the pagan religions with the birth of Christ. The baby Jesus appears in the centre of the image, Mary is to the left, holding up the swaddling cloth and gesturing in order to display the child. Joseph appears further back on the right, dressed in his customary yellow. On either side shepherds crowd in to do homage to the child. To the right of Christ there is a figure of a young boy bearing a dove, a symbol of peace. The costume of the boy seems to echo the usual depiction of a young John the Baptist, and may be intended as a visual reminder of him. On the far right side a shepherd enters with a lamb, both a gift for Christ and a symbol of his sacrifice to come.
oil on canvas
H 130 x W 175 cm
purchased with the assistance of the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, 1963