Birth of Christ | 7th Tiberius Auction
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Birth of Christ

7th Tiberius Auction

Birth of Christ

After Sale Price:  15.168

  • BTC: 0,95710080 ฿
  • USD: 15.775 $
  • GBP: 13.031 £
  • CNY: 118.341 ¥

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Birth of Christ
Rhineland/Southern Netherlands
Around 1500
Wood relief carved & polychromed
43 x 42 cm, with frame 51 x 50 cm

This square relief depicting the birth of Christ shows an aspect of Christ’s salvation with many carefully added details. This pictorial theme was already depicted on ancient or early Christian sarcophagi and also enjoyed great popularity in the Middle Ages.

Mary, wrapped in a wide cloak with voluminous folds, sits with her hands clasped in front of her chest, looking down at the naked Child Jesus, who is lying on a cloth. The mother is visually elevated by the stable architecture; the ox and donkey are resting in it, in which the ox seems to be stretching its head up to the hay trough and eating; a playful moment in the otherwise devoutly solemn atmosphere. Three angels with large golden wings are gathered around the child who has just been born. Two of them look down on the Saviour with clasped hands, while the third seems to be pulling at the cloth, possibly to make the child’s bed more comfortable. Around them the city walls are depicted with an open door like a “hortus conclusus”, i.e. a closed garden. A bearded male figure with tools attached to his belt is bending over the battlements of the wall; this is probably Joseph the carpenter, completing the Holy Family. In the background is a city veduta with fortified walls, in front of which shepherds are leading their sheep through a hilly and rocky landscape. The angel of the Lord approaches from the upper right, announcing the good news of the birth of Christ. One shepherd looks up at the angel spellbound, while another seems to be fleeing.

The relief panel probably comes from the side wing of an altar, where it was integrated into the biblical cycle. The lush and complex folds suggest a date of origin around 1500. The surrounding angels are reminiscent of Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut from the Life of Mary with the same subject, which was created around 1503. A similar relief can also be found in the northern aisle of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Worms from 1515, whereby the object shown here is the counterpart to lot 560. Lastly, it should be noted that the wonderfully preserved original polychromy here is particularly noteworthy, as this is exceptionally rare in sculptural works from this area.

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