THE NATIVITY
THE NATIVITY
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PROPERTY OF A LADY
THE NATIVITY

AFTER DONATELLO (1386-1466) OR LORENZO GHIBERTI (1378-1455), ITALIAN, PROBABLY FIRST HALF 15TH CENTURY, THE FRAME PROBABLY THE SAME DATE

Details
THE NATIVITY
AFTER DONATELLO (1386-1466) OR LORENZO GHIBERTI (1378-1455), ITALIAN, PROBABLY FIRST HALF 15TH CENTURY, THE FRAME PROBABLY THE SAME DATE
gilt and polychrome terracotta, gilt and polychrome wood frame
18 1⁄4 x 14 in. (46.4 x 35.6 cm.) the relief
40 x 22 in. (101.6 x 55.9 cm.) the frame
Provenance
Private collection, Italy, by 2007.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 2 February 2018, lot 260.
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale.
Literature
Masterpieces of Art: Five Centuries of Painting and Sculpture, Salander O’Reilly Galleries in association with Whitfield Fine Art, New York, 17 October 2007-1 February 2008, no. 1.

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
Il museo Bardini a Firenze, Milan, 1984-6, vol. 2, p. 244, fig. 207.
A. Darr, Donatello e i suoi: Scultura fiorentina del primo Rinascimento, Detroit, 1986, pp. 128-130.
A. Moskowitz, Nicola & Giovanni Pisano: The Pulpits, London, 2005, p. 81, 105.

Brought to you by

John Hawley
John Hawley Specialist, Head of Part II

Lot Essay

The present work depicts the Nativity, the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Annunciation to the Shepherds in a naturalistic landscape with classically inspired figures. There are three known versions of this composition- highly indicative of Ghiberti’s stylistic approach to the Baptistry Doors in Florence- this is the only one remaining in private hands. The polychromy of the present version is astonishingly intact, far more so than the other two versions, shedding light on the intended visual impact of all the known versions.

The Ford Nativity at the Detroit Institute of Arts (acc. F76.92) is thought to be the oldest of the three and is rendered in terracotta like the present version. The composition of the Nativity at the Museo Stefano Bardini in Florence (Il Museo Bardini a Firenze, pl. 207.), varies slightly from the Ford Nativity and is rendered in stucco instead of terracotta. The Bardini version, in stucco instead of terracotta, varies only from the present composition in the modeling on the halos, which are here painted instead of modeled as part of the relief.

These three versions offer pivotal insight on the workings of early Renaissance workshops and the art market of the time. Scholars have debated the authorship of the Ford Nativity between Ghiberti and Donatello, in no small part subsequent to Donatello’s apprenticeship to Ghiberti between 1404 and 1407 as Ghiberti began to shift in to this style. Both artists were widely copied by their contemporaries and produced copies within their workshops. Either artist would have been inspired by the widely-known works by Giovanni Pisano already on public display which featured architectural elements around the manger scene (Moskowitz). The present version and Bardini example are thought to date within the same decade as the Ford Nativity. The present relief adds a much needed example of the art market for private devotional images burgeoning from Florence, driven largely by the pivotal work of Ghiberti and Donatello.

A thermoluminescence test dated 4 May 2022 by Oxford Authenticiation Ltd, sample N122d99, dates the last firing 450 to 700 years prior.

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