The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of June 12, 2024

Leaf from a Book of Hours: Text (verso)

Leaf from a Book of Hours: Text (verso)

c. 1430
Location: not on view


Representing God's entry into the world, the Nativity remains one of medieval painting's most poignant Christian images. In the Gospels, only Matthew and Luke directly described this event. Perhaps the brevity and absence of detail in these texts allowed artists to devote so much creativity to amplifying the Christmas story. This miniature's simplicity makes it compelling. Only the three principals—Mary, Joseph, and the newly born Christ child—appear in the scene. The Virgin kneels before an elegant canopied bed made sumptuous by a richly embroidered textile, which stands in contrast to the nearby rustic fence and receding landscape. This scene probably follows the mystical visions of Saint Bridget of Sweden who visited Bethlehem in 1370, and whose written accounts circulated widely after her canonization in 1391: "When her time came she took off her shoes and her white cloak and undid her veil. . . . Then she made ready the swaddling clothes which she put down beside her. When all was ready she bent her knees and began to pray. While she was thus praying with hands raised the child was suddenly born, surrounded by a light so bright that it completely eclipsed Joseph's feeble candle."
  • [Bruce Ferrini, Akron]
  • Fliegel, Stephen N. The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection of Manuscript Illuminations. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999. Mentioned: p. 43, cat. no. 39; Recto Reproduced
  • The Medieval Top Seller: The Book of Hours (Gallery 115 rotation). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (August 26, 2022-July 30, 2023).
  • {{cite web|title=Leaf from a Book of Hours: Text (verso)|url=false|author=|year=c. 1430|access-date=12 June 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

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