MARY – A MASTERPIECE: ‘The Nativity of the Virgin’ by Pietro Lorenzetti (1335 – 1342)

 The ever beautiful, the ever immaculate Virgin Mary for ages has enchanted every artist. Her tender appearance is the most beloved in Christian art. Her heavenly beauty radiates her eternal grace. On this glorious day as the heavens rejoice and the earth gladdens at her birth, we are drawn to the sleepy yet idyllic little town of Siena. Beyond its Tuscan countryside stands its magnificent Cathedral dedicated to the most Blessed Virgin Mary. It is here that we encounter one of the earliest yet one of the most brilliant depictions of her birth. It is executed by none other than the innovative Pietro Lorenzetti (1280 – 1348).

In order to truly grasp the aura of his masterpiece, we need to traverse back in time. In a world where the physical was largely ignored in favour of the heavenly and spiritual realm, Lorenzetti through his paintings embarks upon a renewed interest in human figure and space. The background of his paintings were no longer flat gold rather Lorenzetti explored earthly environments and suffused them with landscapes and architectural edifices. 

The painting in consideration is a ‘triptych’ (Greek for ‘three folds’). The scene is set in a modest yet beautiful medieval household of 14th century Siena. The occasion is far more significant and delightful. Below the starry Gothic skies lies the elderly and voluminous St. Anne. Resplendent in red and gold, she reclines on her bed admiring the little morning star, the fruit of her womb. As St. Anne dwells on the mysteries of the Most High, two young women prepare to bathe the new born. While the first pours water into the hexagonal vessel, the second cradles the infant.

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