Natività (1523)

Lotto, Lorenzo (1480-1557)

Natività (The Nativity)
Oil on panel, 46 x 35.9 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

A young woman and an older man kneel to either side of a nude baby outside of a barn-like structure in this vertical painting. The people and three winged angels overhead all have pale skin except the older man, who has a more tan complexion. To our right, the woman kneels with her hands crossed over her chest, facing our left in profile. She looks down with dark eyes, and has a long, straight nose, flushed cheeks, and pink lips. Her wavy, chestnut-brown hair is mostly covered by a voluminous white veil that drapes across her shoulders. She wears an azure-blue cloak over a rose-pink, long-sleeved dress, which puddles under her knees. To our left, the man kneels with his hands held up near his face in prayer. He has dark eyes and a short, stubby nose. He is balding with a fringe of curly gray hair, and he has a full, graying beard. He wears a coral-red robe wrapped in a mustard-yellow cloak. The edges of white cuffs are visible at his wrists. One sandaled foot peeks out from under his robe as he kneels on the other knee. A walking stick lies across one arm, braced in his lap. Glimmering gold rings create halos around the man and woman’s heads. Between them and on a white cloth in a woven basket, the baby has a pudgy face and body as he lifts his hands toward the woman. One foot is also raised, chubby knee bent. The infant has dark eyes and blond curly hair. Clusters of three lines emanate from the top of his head and to the sides over each ear. A wooden container and a white sack sit on the dirt ground, next to the basket. Beyond the group is a wooden structure with a thatched, overhanging roof. Two white birds sit along a branch tucked in the supports holding up the roof, and a ladder leans against the side of the barn. A crucifux hangs from a deeply shadowed wall behind the man, along the left edge of the painting. Three, winged, childlike angels gather around a piece of sheet music at the top center of the painting. They all have dark blond hair but different colored wings, in coral pink, forest green, or golden yellow. Below, trees and grassy hills lead back to hazy blue mountains along the horizon in the deep distance. A person and white sheep dot the hillside near the structure. The sky above deepens from ice blue at the horizon to aquamarine blue across the top edge. The artist signed and dated the painting as if he had inscribed a plank of wood near the lower right corner: “L. Lotus 1523.” (NGA)