The Visconti Hours, Part II, Milan, End of the 14th and first half of the 15th centuries

Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, Landau-Finally Holding, Ms. 22, fol. 11

In the bright Nativity scene in our miniature the heavenly event is transposed into a narrative scene from the contemporary every-day life on earth. The noble figure of Mary passes her Holy Child, supported on a circlet of rays, towards the midwife, who reminds us of the North Italian Tacuinum figures, characteristic of dei Grassi’s patterns, likewise the bustling maiden, kneeling at the tub in the foreground, pouring bath-water for the infant from a red jug while she tests the water temperature with her left hand. The heart stirring figure of Joseph, foster-father (with a halo) is sunk in thought as he holds out the swaddling clothes to dry while he is warming his naked foot a little at the open fire. This and all the other details are lovingly recorded and true to life, but there are very few elements of medieval symbolism, too.