(b. ca. 1308, Firenze, d. ca. 1368, Firenze)

Tabernacle: Birth of the Virgin

Marble on mosaic background
Orsanmichele, Florence

The picture shows The Birth of the Virgin, one of the eight octagonal reliefs on the base of the tabernacle depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin.

The transformation of the Gothic style into a richer, more highly decorated mode in only twenty years can be illustrated by comparing the lucidity of Andrea Pisano's (in fact Giotto's) design for the Campanile of the Cathedral in Florence with the complexity of Orcagna's structure. In the Birth of the Virgin, the floor is tilted and the bed curtains parted like those of a stage to display every detail: the midwife admiring the swaddled child, the background figure with the pitcher in one hand and in the other a tray (similar to ones customarily given to Florentine mothers after the birth of a male child), the bedroom walls of unplastered masonry, the interior shutters with their nailheads, and even the keyholes in the linen chest, which formed the pedestal of an Italian bed of the period. All this represents a sharp departure from the ordered reliefs of Andrea Pisano.