The Sancta Sanctorum Icon: Detail, The Nativity

Palestinian, 6th century
Painted wooden box for pilgrims' souvenirs of the Holy Land
Museo Sacro Cristiana, Vatican City

This image features details that will stay with Nativity iconography for many centuries. The ox and ass are still in evidence in contemporary Nativity images. The mother and child continue to recline in separate spaces, the child above and closer to the animals, through the early Middle Ages in the west and still today in Orthodox icons, as does the cave setting. Joseph's contemplative pose also continues for many centuries.

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