The Nativity Fra Angelico Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

The Nativity by Fra Angelico is one of many of this genre that this Italian painter has produced focusing on the birth of Jesus in the early Renaissance period.

This particular example dates back to 1425 and is painted in the medium of tempera on poplar panel and at approximately 30cm x 15cm this colourful image brings both rustic and glory united together. In the far background bland, hilly turrets protrude upwards to the golden sky, the famous artist Angelico, caps this painting majestically, almost with an emblazoned, gold leaf effect. Two grey silhouettes of shepherds look aghast at the sight before them and gaze skywards both shielding the glare before them.

From the skyline your eye takes you to the humble stable below. A straw pyramid shaped roof is embellished with five royal blue angels, their halo’s glowing. The shelter is worn at the sides but its branch style structure remains strong and sturdy. Peering to the left of the stable sits an emerald tree. Individual leaves appear to glisten and bring nature to this glorious night. Taking centre stage, as it should, proud parents Mary and Joseph kneel at the wonder of their newborn before them.

Mary is dressed in a rust, red robe covering all but her hands and head. Her chiseled facial features staring down at Jesus with her hands in a prayer like position. Her golden locks curled behind her. Joseph wears gold edged, fuschia attire and holds his hand in awe at the savior child. Angelico cleverly ages Joseph with weary lines against the side of his eye and soft, grey facial hair. On his head sits a blue head piece which drapes down his neck.

Both parents adorn halo’s as in most of Fra’s nativity paintings. These take on a strictly circular profile which are golden but tinged with rusty red to match Mary’s dress. The halo’s are perfectly grooved, similar to a record. Traditional to the nativity behind them a horned cow and a tethered donkey also kneel before Christ. Jesus himself is naked excepting a similar halo to his parent. He lies on straw which appear to be golden, spiky wisps, around his cherub form, which emphasise his importance.

The painting as a whole encompasses many aspects of the story of Jesus including; joy, humbleness, creation, glory and innocence. Being a friar himself, Fra Angelico focused most of his work on bible stories through paintings, altar pieces and frescoes.

The Nativity in Detail Fra Angelico