PERUGINO, Pietro
(b. 1450, Citta della Pieve, d. 1523, Perugia)

Nativity

1500-05
Tempera on panel, transferred to canvas, 26 x 46 cm
Art Institute, Chicago

There are four panels in Chicago depicting moments when Christ's special nature was revealed: his birth, his baptism by St John the Baptist in the river Jordan, his conversation with a woman of Samaria at the well of the patriarch Jacob, and his appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection. These four panels, together with another one depicting the Resurrection, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, once constituted a predella - a series of small pictures, often with narrative content, forming the base of an altarpiece. In this case, the painting that was positioned above the predella as the focal point of the altarpiece is unidentified, it is possibly the large Crucifixion in the church of Sant'Agostino, Siena.

Perugino's serene and decorous art was widely influential in his native region of Umbria and beyond, most famously through his contact with the young Raphael.