Jacopo Negretti (Palma il Giovane)
The Birth of Mary

1591-1603
Church of San Trovaso, Venice

As usual, the birth is shown in a comfortable middle-class setting with St. Anne still in bed and midwives or servants bathing the child. The young woman in the left foreground holds the swaddling cloth by its corners just as Mary is seen to do in many Nativity images of the period.

Presumably the man raising his hands in the right foreground is the father, St. Joachim.

There is a clear effort to make the scene as natural and contemporary as possible. At the bedside a young woman is bringing what appear to be a shallow bowl of water and a sponge to the mother, whose sunken eyes suggest her weariness after giving birth. The furniture and all the clothes are contemporary except for Joachim's mantle. The parents do not have their customary halos: only the baby gets a modest aura about the head. Finally, this realistic scene is separated from the angels above by clouds whose colors and shading match the marble frame.

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Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.