The Nativity

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

Date: early 1480s

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: Overall 18 3/4 x 13 1/2 in. (47.6 x 34.3 cm), painted surface 18 1/2 x 13 3/8 in. (47 x 34 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931

Accession Number: 32.100.40a


This painting, which most likely was intended as a single, private devotional panel, combines the depiction of the Nativity and the Adoration of the Shepherds, as described in both biblical and mystical literature. It probably dates from the early 1480s, before David established himself in Bruges. The homely and naive figure types and the geometric simplification of the heads of the Virgin and angels reflect models the artist knew from his early training in the northern Netherlands. Already present is the characteristic combination of serene landscape, simple architectural setting, and meditative figures that would contribute to the painter’s popularity.