Nativity (1439-1443) by Fra Angelico

Nativity - Fra Angelico - 1440 - 1441

Artwork Information

ArtistFra Angelico
Date1440 - 1441
MediumFresco on Wall
Dimensions69 5/8 x 58 1/4 in (177 x 148 cm)
Art MovementEarly Renaissance
Current LocationBasilica di San Marco, Florence, Italy

About Nativity

The artwork titled “Nativity” is a fresco on wall created by Fra Angelico, an artist of the Early Renaissance movement. It dates back to between 1440 and 1441 and is prominently displayed in the Basilica di San Marco, Florence, Italy. The work measures 69 5/8 x 58 1/4 inches (177 x 148 cm) and falls under the religious painting genre.

The artwork illustrates the biblical story of the birth of Christ. The central figure is the infant Jesus, laid on the ground and radiating an otherworldly glow, suggesting a divine presence. Surrounding the child are key figures from the nativity story—Mary, the mother, is exhibited with a humble and reflective pose, gazing upon her newborn son. Joseph stands by her, with a gaze that suggests contemplation and a sense of quiet reverence for the momentous event. Both Mary and Joseph are shown with halos, symbolizing their sainthood.

Above the rustic setting of the manger, a group of angels is present, depicted in the upper register. They bear expressions of adoration and joy, and their presence further underscores the heavenly significance of the scene. Additionally, an ox and a donkey—animals commonly associated with the nativity scene—are included, further ingraining the painting in its traditional iconography.

Fra Angelico’s use of color and light imbues the scene with a profound serenity and sanctity, reflective of the Early Renaissance style. The architectural elements and the use of perspective are indicative of the period’s interest in more naturalistic representation. The fresco’s rounded arch and the haloed figures are elements typical of the religious art of that era, conveying a sense of the divine within a framework accessible to the human observer.

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