Lorenzo Maitani and Associates, The Nativity

First half of the 14th century
Detail from the west façade, Orvieto Cathedral, Italy

In this composition conservative touches such as the midwives and Joseph's contemplative pose combine with the 14th-century emphasis on inspiring wonder and joy in the beholder. Those emotions are modeled for the viewer by the midwife who reaches longingly for the child while Mary reveals him to her and to us by dramatically raising the curtain.

The Nativity cycle is pictured in the second through fourth registers of the relief.

But the work also invites contemplation of the meaning of the Nativity by placing the child in a sarcophagus rather than a manger, a reminder that he came to die and be "born again" in the Resurrection.

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about images of the Nativity.

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