The Nativity

Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni) (Italian, Florence (?) ca. 1370–1425 Florence (?))

ca. 1406–10
Tempera on wood, gold ground
8 3/4 x 12 1/4 in. (22.2 x 31.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This Nativity is one of Lorenzo Monaco's most celebrated works. The compositional elements are brilliantly adapted to the quatrefoil field, and the rich and subtle color harmonies reflect the artist's skill as a manuscript painter. Particularly striking is the nocturnal setting, which is suffused by the supernatural light emanating from the Christ Child and the angel. This panel formed part of a predella, which also included a Visitation, an Adoration of the Magi, and a Flight into Egypt.

  • Provenance

    Perhaps identical with a painting in the James Dennistoun sale, Christie's, June 14, 1855, lot 14 ("Don Lorenzo Monaco, the Nativity: the Virgin kneeling, Saint Joseph seated on the ground, the Infant in a manger, the shepherds and angels above. From the collection of M. Lauriani, Librarian at the Vatican"). The Dennistoun panel reappears in the sale of the Rev. Walter Davenport Bromley, Christie's, June 12-13, 1863, lot 46 ("Andrea Orcagna, The Virgin kneeling before the Infant in a cradle; on the right is Saint Joseph seated asleep, two figures in the background. This agrees with a picture by the same master in the National Gallery [573]. From the collection of Mr. Dennistoun"). The Dennistoun sale included as no. 9 two panels of the Visitation and Adoration of the Magi as ascribed to Taddeo Gaddi, which also appear as nos. 14 and 15 in the Davenport Bromley sale with an attribution to Giottino. These are identical with the related panels by Lorenzo Monaco in the Courtauld Institute Gallery. Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin (Die Sammlung Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin, Cassirer and Helbing, Berlin, December 4, 1917, no. 5); Frank Channing Smith, Jr., Worcester (Mass.), from 1921. Acquired by Robert Lehman in 1934.

  • See also
    In the Museum