The Nativity

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This large, probably despotic icon depicts the Virgin lying on a red mattress that is placed diagonally across the center of the composition. She gazes tenderly at the Christ Child, who lies wrapped in swaddling clothes in the cave next to her. Above them to the left angels are singing, and to the right an angel announces the joyful news to a young shepherd. At the bottom left, Joseph sits with an elderly shepherd, and at the right a midwife holds the baby as she prepares the bath with a maidservant. To the left of the central composition, the Magi are depicted on horseback, and to the right are some sheep and a young shepherd playing the flute, episodes that complete the scene of Christ's Nativity. This icon, dated to the first half of the 15th century, with its faithfulness to Constantinopolitan tradition, its well-balanced composition, and high quality, was probably created in the Venetian-dominated environment of Crete.