This engraving, which Dürer referred to as 'Christmas', is one of the most unusual in his entire printed oeuvre. Unlike any other print Dürer gave prominence to the architecture, the 'stage', rather than the figures. This is all the more remarkable as the scene is one of the most important in all Christianity. To depict the Nativity with such nonchalance must have bordered on the heretical.
Dürer certainly took pleasure in composing and constructing the setting with much accuracy and attention to detail. Yet there seems to be another reason for the apparent marginality of the figures. By reducing the scale of the scene and locating it in the middle ground of surroundings which are reminiscent of the courtyard of an ordinary Nuremberg house, Dürer emphasized the essential meaning of the birth of Christ; his humanity and humility, and the relevance of the event to all mankind.