Rutilio Manetti - inv. 1109

Rutilio Manetti (1571-1639)

The Nativity
22,6 x 16,9 cm
1879 donation Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 1109

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In this small painting Mary is on her knees leaning over her newborn son, under the tired eyes of Joseph. Behind them stand the donkey, still saddled, and the ox. Jubilant cherubs appear in the cloud above the holy family and supernatural light illuminates the scene.

In the background, a small scene through an opening in the rocks shows the Virgin and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem on a moonlit night. In the foreground, a beautiful still life emerges from the shadows – a basket, a bundle and a flask leaning against a piece of wood. Some details, such as the halo in perspective and the drapery folds of Joseph’s magnificent yellow cloak, are worthy of note.

Copper was often used as a medium for small pictures in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was more expensive than canvas or wood, but ensured a more stable base. The paintwork here has been laid in a rather thick way, as revealed by a number of the artist’s fingerprints visible on the surface.

This painting entered Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli’s collection attributed to a painter from Cremona, but by 1932 it was identified as a work by Rutilio Manetti, an artist who helped spread the naturalistic style of Caravaggio, learnt in his stay Rome, in Siena. Datable to 1613–1614, the painting belongs to his early works, still influenced by the late 16th-century Sienese school.