The Nativity with Donors and Saints Jerome and Leonard

Artist: Gerard David (Netherlandish, Oudewater ca. 1455–1523 Bruges)

Date: ca. 1510–15

Medium: Oil on canvas, transferred from wood

Dimensions: Central panel 35 1/2 x 28 in. (90.2 x 71.1 cm); each wing 35 1/2 x 12 3/8 in. (90.2 x 31.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Jules Bache Collection, 1949

Accession Number: 49.7.20a–c

Description

In a characteristically Netherlandish treatment of the Nativity, David focuses attention on the mystery of the Incarnation—that is, Christ's birth and sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. Despite the joyful moment depicted, the figures all wear somber expressions, foreshadowing Christ’s eventual suffering and sacrifice. The sheaf of grain parallel to the manger refers to John 6:41: "I am the bread which came down from Heaven." The two donors, who are presented by Saints Jerome and Leonard, have remained unidentified. They could have been called Catherine and Anthony, since they are painted with the attributes of saints with these names.

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