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The Virgin Kneeling next to the Creche

This seventeenth-century image is probably a product of the Counter Reformation, in which ecstatic visions of early saints were often recreated to spur the viewer into renewed faith. It is most likely based on the revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden, who, in the fourteenth century described her visions of the Nativity. In her vision, Joseph is not present at the actual moment of Christ’s birth, and the Virgin is kneeling in an ecstasy of contemplation when the child is born in a flash, without pain. The print shows the scene moments after the babe’s birth, with the Virgin kneeling in adoration over him. As in Saint Bridget’s vision, a heavenly light is shown filling the babe’s body. Heavenly hosts proclaim Glor in Ecel (Gloria in excelsis Deo), with God the Father looking on from the heavens, emphasizing that this image is not meant to merely illustrate an event, but to evoke the sense of awe and mystery associated with the birth of Christ. This intimate subject reappears in a vertical format as the print God the Father Viewing His Newborn Son.

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
Italian, 1609–1664
The Virgin Kneeling next to the Creche
1645/published 1649
Etching on paper
Image: 7 7/8 x 15 ¾ in. (20.0 x 40.0 cm); sheet: 8 11/16 x 16 ¼ in. (22.1 x 41.3 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 73.25.1