Mystical Nativity

Mystical Nativity by Sandro Botticelli

The Mystical Nativity was painted around 1500–1501 by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli. It is Botticelli’s only signed work, and has an unusual iconography for a Nativity.

The Greek inscription at the top translates as: “This picture, at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, I Alessandro, in the half-time after the time, painted, according to the eleventh [chapter] of Saint John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, during the release of the devil for three-and-a-half years; then he shall be bound in the twelfth [chapter] and we shall see [him buried] as in this picture.” Botticelli believed himself to be living during the Tribulation, possibly due to the upheavals in Europe at the time, and was predicting Christ’s Millennium as stated in Biblical text from the Book of Revelation by Saint John.

The painting uses the medieval convention of showing the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus larger than other figures, and their surroundings; this was certainly done deliberately for effect, as earlier paintings by Botticelli use correct graphical perspective.