Artist: Fra Carnevale (Bartolomeo di Giovanni Corradini) (Italian, born by 1416–died 1484 Urbino)
Medium: Tempera and oil on wood
Dimensions: 57 x 37 7/8 in. (144.8 x 96.2 cm)
Credit Line: Rogers and Gwynne Andrews Funds, 1935
Accession Number: 35.121
Breaking with convention, the artist shows the Madonna’s birth in contemporary terms. In the background the newborn baby is bathed by midwives, while in the foreground women greet each other. The imposing palace, patterned on the ducal palace of Urbino, is decorated with reliefs derived from Roman sculpture. The picture is from an altarpiece commissioned in 1467 for the church of Santa Maria della Bella in Urbino. A companion panel is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Fra Carnevale worked in Florence with Filippo Lippi. In Urbino he saw paintings by Piero della Francesca and probably met the great architect-theorist Leon Battista Alberti.
For a detailed discussion of this fascinating work, see metmuseum.org/collections.