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Updated: 27 April 2015
Icon with the Nativity of Christ; egg tempera on wood with linen and gesso. A rocky back- ground occupies the greatest part of the composition with the cave placed in the centre of it. The Virgin is depicted in front of the cave to the left and is kneeling towards the right, where the manger is placed. Inside the manger Christ is lying naked on a white sheet and is looking upwards towards his mother while two animals (an ox and an ass) are standing above the manger and bringing their heads close to Christ. In the middle of the foreground lower than the cave Joseph is seated and converses with an old shepherd standing in front of him. Behind the old shepherd, a young one is seated and plays the flute while flocking his numerous sheep. Above the cave to the left an angel is conversing with a young shepherd, who is standing opposite him. A group of seven flying angels appear from a white cloud to the right of the cave on the golden background. The three Magi on horses are approaching from the right side of the composition and are heading to the cave.
- Painted in: Crete
- Height: 440 millimetres
- Width: 330 millimetres
- Thickness: 20 millimetres
Inscription PositionUpper left
Inscription TransliterationHXV GENN
Inscription TranslationBirth of Christ
Inscription Positionabove Christ's head
Inscription TransliterationIC XC
Inscription TranslationJesus Christ
Inscription Positionbottom left
Inscription TransliterationXEIP KWNCATINOY TZANE
Inscription TranslationBy the hand of Konstantinos Tzanes
Published: R. Cormack, Icons, London (British Museum), 2014, 140, no 112. The icon was erroneously submitted for sale to Christie's in 1991 and subsequently withdrawn from sale (Christie's, Icons, South Kensington, Wednesday 4 December 1991, lot 36, 7, ill. on 6).
- Named in Inscription: Nativity of Christ
The icon was bequeathed to the British Museum by the painter John Craxton RA (1922-2009), to whom it was bequeathed by Lady Norton, wife of Sir Clifford Norton, British ambassador in Athens (1946-1951). She died in 1972, and Sir Clifford Norton died in 1990. According to John Craxton, Lady Norton had bought the icon in Athens. Any exhibition label should say “Bequeathed by John Craxton RA in memory of Lady Norton”.
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
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Object reference number: MCB35060
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