(b. 1410/20, Baarle, d. 1475/76, Brugge)

The Nativity

c. 1465
Wood, 130 x 97 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The painter, a follower of Jan van Eyck, here illustrates the Biblical theme in terms of contemporary life in his native city of Bruges. Joseph, for example, is shown as a Flemish peasant who, realizing he is on holy ground, has removed his wooden clogs. Under the influence of Rogier van der Weyden, Christus has framed the scene with a sculptured archway, typical of late Gothic churches in Flanders. These simulated sculpture groups, depicting the stories in Genesis of man and his sin, illustrate the historical reason for the subject of the painting, the coming of Christ as the Redeemer.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 22 minutes):
Thomas Tallis: Mass (Puer natus est)