Robert Campin ca. 1380 – 1444

Birth of Christ

oil on panel (86 × 72 cm) — ca. 1425-30 Museum Musée des beaux-arts, Dijon

Robert Campin biography

This work is linked to Luke 2:7

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Like many other depictions of the Birth, the tableau is based on a vision of the Swedish saint Birgitta (Bridget, 1302-1373). She claimed Mary described to her how she kneeled in prayer, the shining child before her. Joseph was said to be holding a candle, and angels were singing.

The two women on the right are midwifes. According to an apocryphal book, Joseph had summoned them to assist his wife. One of them suffered from a paralyzed hand, but the angel in white calls her to touch the child so that she will be healed: "Tangue puerum et sanabaris".

Campin also displayed a group of shepherds, which makes this painting an Adoration of the shepherds as well.

This panel is often praised for its magnificent landscape. Campin used techniques that many others would copy: a road winding away, and the background in lighter colors that make the horizon fade into the sky. On the left, the sun rises behind the mountains, signaling renewal.

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