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The National Gallery of Art
14th century Duccio Nativity

This 14th century Nativity by the Italian master, Duccio di Buoninsegna shows a Byzantine and Western influence. (Tempera on wood; Andrew W. Mellon Collection; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)
The Duccio triptych, flanked by the Old Testament Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, who foretold the Birth of Christ. (Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art.)

While remaining faithful to Byzantine iconography—a reclining Virgin, the Child in swaddling clothes, the ox and the ass, Joseph contemplating the mystery of the Divine Birth, the two midwives bathing the Christ Child— Duccio adds touches of perspective, softening the austerity of Byzantine art.

The manger has acquired a bright-red roof, and the cave's three-dimensional aspect leads the eye to the brilliant gold background, typical of Byzantine icons.

© 2022

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