Probably in 1523, Callisto Piazza moved to Brescia where he painted his first major work, The Nativity, for the church of San Clemente in 1524. There, he studied the work of Moretto da Brescia and of Gerolamo Romanino, with whom he may have collaborated. Their profound influence on the style of the artist, even after his return in 1529 to Lodi, is clearly visible in this picture. It is therefore not surprising that all attempts to attribute the painting before it was first published as by Calisto Piazza by Ferrari (loc. cit.) pointed consistently to a Brescian artist (see Shapley, loc. cit., II, p. 91) - certainly the gesturing apostles crowded around the tomb, who form a contrast to the serene pose of the Madonna and Christ in Heaven, remind of Romanino's work of circa 1520. As summarised by Shapley, Berenson considered the work to be Brescian, circa 1550; Venturi proposed Moroni and Cavagna in collaboration, while Suida suggested Piazza and Cavagna; Longhi proposed a firm attribution to Piazza, who Perkins suggested more tentatively. Shapley pointed to works of circa 1530 by Piazza. The comparison first made in Bolaffi (loc. cit.) with the Baptism of Christ in the Brera, Milan (Inv. Nap. 454), which shows a similar treatment of the musculature of features suggests a date of circa 1542 (Pinacoteca di Brera: Scuole lombarda, ligure, e piemontese 1535-1796, M. Nasoni ed., Milan, 1989, no. 83, illustrated in colour).
The Rev. Walter Davenport Bromley (1787-1863) had inherited Wootton Hall, Staffordshire in 1822 and first visited Italy in that year. By the 1840s he had formed a collection of considerable range and distinction, securing many key works at auction at Christie's and elsewhere. He owned such masterpieces as Bellini's Agony in the Garden (London, National Gallery) and Giotto's Dormition of the Virgin (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). Gustav Waagen, on recording his visit to Wootton (Treasures of Art in Great Britain, III, London, 1854, p. 371), wrote of him that 'Mr. Davenport Bromley is an ardent admirer of all such pictures, be they of the 13th or 16th century, in which an unaffected and genuine feeling is expressed. I found, accordingly, in his house a number of works, chiefly altarpieces, illustrating the Italian schools from their first rise in the 13th century to their highest development in the 16th, such as I have not yet met with ... in any other gallery in England.'