- Museum number
- Object: The Nativity of Christ
Icon; painted; in the centre, against a rocky background, the Mother of God lies on a red bed at the entrance to a cave; beside her, inside the cave, the swaddled figure of Christ lies in a manger, with an ox and donkey, symbolizing the Jews and pagans, worshipping the Child. Above the cave two adoring angels flank the Holy Ghost descending above Christ. To left, the three Magi approach the cave; to right, a young shepherd joyfully blows his horn symbolising the rejoicing of mankind. In the lower left corner, Joseph sits on a hillock listening to an old man dressed in a hair-cloth; in the lower right corner, two female servants prepare a basin for the ablution of the Child.
Inscriptions: in Greek above the Virgin's head: MP ΘY (Mother of God); in the cross arms of Christ's halo: O WN (He Who Is); in Church Slavonic near the figure of Joseph: ИWСИФ (Joseph).
Egg tempera, gesso on wood.
- Production date
Height: 64.40 centimetres
Thickness: 2.50 centimetres
Width: 49.40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The narrative elements are based on texts from the Gospels (Matthew 1:18–25, 2:1–12; Luke 2:11–20) and the 2nd- or 3rd-century apocryphal ‘Protoevangelion of James’. The composition of this icon follows the Byzantine-Russian tradition in its simplified version. Both the rather sketchy style of the painting and the large scale of the two angels are indicative of a provincial style. This icon, together with three others representing the Presentation in the Temple, the Baptism, and the Crucifixion, all came from the same Feasts series of an iconastasis (see Temple Gallery reference below).
Temple Gallery 1974, 64, no. 22 and 62–5, nos 20, 21 and 24 for the other three icons
British Museum Society Bulletin, no. 54 (March, 1987), 3
Cormack 2007, 117, no. 17.
- Not on display
- Made from a single panel with ‘kovcheg’; two inserted battens on the reverse; the paint layer on the background, which was originally light green, has been scraped down to the white gesso. The thin red frame along the icon’s edges is the result of recent restoration.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: IC 17 (Icon Collection number)