Geertgen tot Sint Jans ca. 1460/65 – ca. 1488/93

The Nativity

oil on panel (34 × 25 cm) — c. 1490 Museum The National Gallery, London

Geertgen tot Sint Jans biography

This work is linked to Luke 2:7

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The light of the newborn Christ in the manger shines on the faces of Mary and a group of angels. Joseph is to the right. Ox and ass are also present. Outside a shining angel announces the birth to a group of shepherds.

Geertgen here used the child as the main source of light. He was one of the first Western European painters to play with light and shadow in such manner. The idea of the radiating Jesus was derived from the writings of the Swedish saint Bridget, who described the light as stronger than the sun's.

This Nativity, at night, probably an altarpiece for domestic devotion, used to be larger to the right.

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