This painting is a slightly enlarged seventeenth-century copy of the Nativity Original by Barocci (Prado, Madrid), probably from 1597.
Acquired in 1762 by George III from Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice (Italian List #284)
Christmas is the ideal time to contemplate the birth of Jesus through one of the most beautiful works of art: The Nativity by Federico Barocci.
Frederico Barocci is one of the most important Mannerist painters of the 16th century who applied an extraordinary use of color to his artistic work, characterized by warm tones. Most of Barocci's masterpieces have a religious theme inspired by his deep faith. According to Barocci, art has the extraordinary ability to represent the transcendent presence of the invisible God before the eyes of the beholder.
The Nativity is a clear example of Barocci's style and work. The charm and poetry of the painting come to life with the light that illuminates the entire stall and recalls the words of the Gospel: "The true light, which illuminates everyone, was coming into the world." (Jn 1,9). The light comes from that child whose head rests on the white cushion and whose splendor is reflected in the eyes of the animals that surround him. The blue mantle of Mary covers the Child which means the humility of God who allowed himself to be clothed with humanity.
The light shines across the scene at the diagonal angle, hitting Mary who gazes sweetly at her Son. We too can contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation, the fact that God became man, God became a child. María has her arms open in a tender and welcoming gesture that encloses the entire scene. José, on the other hand, is at the door in the shade testifying and announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Immediately after greeting the shepherds, José points to the Lord.
Barocci may never have seen an original Correggio, but Correggesque motifs appear in his compositions. Warmth of feeling, tenderness of expression, and a painterly approach (as opposed to a cartoonist) are common in the work of both artists. This is particularly evident in Barocci's numerous paintings on the theme of the Virgin; two of the most famous are the Madonna del Popolo (1579) and the exquisitely beautiful Nativity. Barocci was unusual in the Mannerist period for his numerous and extremely sensitive life drawings. His distinctive use of color is of central Italian origin: pale, fugitive colors mixed primarily with vermilion pinks, mother-of-pearl whites, and grays.