John of Paul (1395/1400 ca. 1482); Altar-step compartment: The Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds; Tempera on poplar; 1435 ca.; Vatican Art Gallery © Musei Vaticani
A splendid nighttime scene of the Nativity and the Annunciation to the shepherds, in which St. Joseph is depicted as an old man, shown from behind as he sleeps next to a dead tree, which alludes to his exclusion from the birth of the Son of God. The two women near Mary—who are the midwives of which the apocryphal gospels speak—represent those people who believe (the woman who looks toward the Virgin) and those who doubt (Salome, who turns her back). In the background an angel lights up the sky appearing to the shepherds. But the supernatural light which radiates from the Child, placed humbly on the ground, is much brighter.
Under the direction of Paolo Ondarza
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