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Maître de la Nativité de Castello

Virgin and Child


Maître de la Nativité de Castello
Active in Florence, about 1445-about 1470


Virgin and Child


About 1460


Tempera and gold on wood


58.5 x 37 cm (approx.)


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, inv. 2008.6


Western Art

This well-documented masterpiece is by the Master of the Castello Nativity, a distinguished mid-fifteenth century Florentine artist. His paintings are very rare: less than thirty works are securely attributed to him. The early twentieth-century connoisseur, Bernard Berenson, first named the so-called Master of the Castello Nativity, based on his attribution of a group of paintings around a Nativity, now in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. This artist was profoundly influenced by the famous Lippi and almost certainly was present in his studio. He tends to present figures in simple planar constructions, generally oriented frontally to the pictorial surface. The extraordinarily rich and fresh gilt brocade pattern behind the Virgin converts a traditional reference to the heavenly realm to an exquisite hanging before which the figures pose. The Infant holds a goldfinch; as goldfinches eat thistles and thorns, they are seen as an allusion to Christ’s crown of thorns and Passion. Thus the bird frequently appears as a “plaything” of the Infant Christ, underlining the connection between his Incarnation and Crucifixion.

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