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The Nativity

William Blake, English, 1757 - 1827

Made in England, Europe

1799 or 1800

Tempera on copper

10 3/4 x 15 1/16 inches (27.3 x 38.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 392, European Art 1500-1850, third floor (Haas Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. William Thomas Tonner, 1964

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biblical [x]   virgin mary [x]  

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Everything in this small painting emphasizes the miraculous nature of the birth of Jesus. Joseph supports a swooning Mary, while Jesus springs forth from her womb and hovers above the manger. He is received by Mary's cousin, Saint Elizabeth, whose own child, John the Baptist, rests in her lap. A cross glows in the window as if reflected in the light of the star of Bethlehem. The infant Jesus' outstretched arms prefigure his Crucifixion. This painting is one of a series of biblical illustrations that Blake made for Thomas Butts, a clerk in the War Office Department of Mustering and an important supporter of Blake's art.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.