In this painting Gentile da Fabriano combined several different devotional and biblical subjects: the Madonna of Humility, the Nativity, and the Annunciation to the Shepherds. As the Madonna of Humility, the Virgin sits upon the ground, her hands folded as she worships the child in her lap. Though her monumental figure fills the height of the panel, she is flanked by the traditional narrative elements of the Nativity: at left, the sleeping Saint Joseph and, at right, the ox and donkey in a stable. In the distance, the shepherds receive word of Christ’s birth in a nighttime landscape. Closely observed details, such as the grasses and flowers in the foreground and the gauzy veil draped over the newborn child’s body, are evidence of Gentile’s fascination with capturing the world around him.
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