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16. An Open-Air Advent of the Lord

Here’s a completely different approach to nativity art.

I find Andrea Previtali’s Nativity particularly striking for the multiple scenes it includes. Certainly, the Italian Renaissance artist’s primary focus is on the Holy Family, painted in an open-air setting and positioned slightly off-center. Mary seems so young, particularly in relation to Joseph, who appears to be quite an older man. The animals seem to be breathing directly on the Christ Child, and the night is likely cold, as their steamy breath can be seen.

To the left, one can see three different scenes: (1) two women, walking with pottery in hand; (2) shepherds keeping their flocks in a hilly pasture; and (3) an angel hovering in light overhead. The upper portion of the painting shows a distant village, with the view peeking through the top of the stable structure (which is really more like a portico or pergola) and behind it in the top right-hand corner.

Nativity, by Andrea Previtali, c1515

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