The Mystical Nativity is a painting by Sandro Botticelli, completed around 1500-1501 and currently exhibited at the National Gallery in London. It is the only piece of Botticelli’s bearing his signature. The painting combines elements of Christ’s birth with a vision of his Second Coming, as foretold in the Book of Revelation. The angels in the artwork are positioned under the golden dome of heaven, while above it is a Greek inscription based on verses from the Revelations of John related to the apocalypse.
Botticelli started working on the Mystic Nativity soon after Savonarola’s renowned Lenten sermon, which provided the central motif for the painting. The artwork has an unusual iconography for a Nativity scene, incorporating darker elements influenced by Dante’s depictions of heaven and hell. The circle of twelve angels at the top signifies the twelve hours in a day and the twelve months in a year. The painting is highly symbolic and has been the subject of various analyses and interpretations.
Overall, Botticelli’s The Mystical Nativity is a unique interpretation of the birth of Christ, which draws on apocalyptic themes and the artist’s own innovative iconography. The painting remains a significant work in the National Gallery’s collection and continues to be studied by art historians and enthusiasts alike.