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The Nativity (around) c.1515

Object Name



Peruzzi, Baldassare (1481-1536) (Primary maker)
Peruzzi, Baldassare (1481-1536) (maker)

Date Made

(around) c.1515
(around) c.1515


Born in Siena, in northern Italy, Baldassare Peruzzi was an architect, theatre designer, painter and draughtsman. After Michelangelo and Raphael, he was the most important artistic figure in Rome during the first decades of the 1500s, an intensely creative period now termed the High Renaissance.

Painted in Rome, The Nativity is a night scene, considered the most challenging of all subjects during the High Renaissance. In the background, an elaborate architectural structure suggests the power of the ancient world, while the stable sheltering the Holy Family is rustic and humble. The classical building, however, is in ruins and the birth of Christ offers the promise of salvation. What makes the work revolutionary is Peruzzi’s complex use of various light sources: the moonlight, the early light of dawn, the comet-like angel announcing the birth to the shepherds and the light emanating from the infant Jesus.

The Nativity is the first High Renaissance painting to enter the Ulster Museum collection. Almost all Peruzzi’s painted works were wall paintings in fresco and much is lost. His oil paintings are extremely rare. The subject, that of a mother and her new-born child, is universal and celebrated in all cultures and religions.

Acquired following export deferral with the assistance of grants from the Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Department for Communities NI and the Esmé Mitchell Trust, 2022. During 2022-23, conservation and scientific analysis of The Nativity took place at the National Gallery, London, as part of the National Conservation Programme supported by the Aldama Foundation.


Oil on panel

Catalogue Number



Photo Credit: The National Gallery.