Scenes from the Nativity Story

2nd half of 6th century
Tinted ivory, polychromy
The Louvre, Paris

On the left the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of the Savior. The basket at Mary's feet is probably a reference to the statement in the Protevangelium that she was weaving a new veil for the Temple when Gabriel appeared.

In the center is the water test described in 16 of the Protevangelium. The high priest, on the left, gives Joseph "the water of the ordeal of the Lord," which Joseph drinks and then goes to the hill country but is not harmed. (Perhaps the thick arc between the two figures represent the hill country?)

On the right, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census. Mary sits on an ass that is led by one of Joseph's sons from an earlier marriage, a detail derived from 17.

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More of St. Joseph
More of the Annunciation
More of the Nativity


Photographed at the Louvre by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.