The Nativity

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Fra Bartolommeo (Baccio della Porta)
Italian, 1472-1517

The Nativity, 1504/07

Oil on panel
34 x 24.5 cm (13 3/8 x 9 5/8 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Ethel T. Scarborough Fund; L. L. and A. S. Coburn, Dr. and Mrs. William Gilligan, Mr. and Mrs. Lester King, John and Josephine Louis, Samuel A. Marx, Alexander McKay, Chester D. Tripp, and Murray Vale endowment funds; restricted gift of Marilynn Alsdorf, Anne Searle Bent, David and Celia Hilliard, Alexandra and John Nichols, Mrs. Harold T. Martin, Mrs. George B. Young in memory of her husband, and the Rhoades Foundation; gift of John Bross and members of the Old Masters Society in memory of Louise Smith Bross; through prior gift of the George F. Harding, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, and Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester collections, 2005.49

Working in Florence along with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo in the first years of the 16th century, Fra Bartolommeo looked to the most lyrical, harmonious works of these artists in developing his own intimate style. The young Baccio della Porta came under the spell of the ardent Dominican reformer Savonarola, joining his order as Fra (Friar) Bartolommeo in 1500 and forsaking his artistic career for several years. Returning to painting in 1504, he invested this work with a new spirituality.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Galeries nationales, Grand Palais, France 1500: Entre Moyen Age et Renaissance, 2010–11, no. 200.

Art Institute of Chicago, Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France, 2011, no. 115.

Publication History

Enrico Ridolfi, “Notizie sopra varie opere di Fra da San Marco,” Giornale Ligustico di archeologica, storia e belle arti 5 (1878), p. 122.

P. Vincenzo Marchese, Memorie dei più insigni pittori, scultori e architetti domenicani, 4th ed., vol. 2, Bologne, 1879, p. 177.

Fritz Knapp, Fra Bartolommeo della Porta und die Schule von San Marco, Halle, 1903, p. 271.

Janet Cox-Rearick, La Collection de François Ier, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, Les dossiers du département des peintures, 1972, p. 24.

Janet Cox-Rearick, The Collection of Francis I: Royal Treasures, Antwerp, 1996, pp. 167-8, no. V-2.

Chris Fischer, Fra Bartolommeo et son atelier. Dessins et peintures des collections françaises, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1994, p. 86, under no. 50.

Janet Cox-Rearick, The Collection of Francis I: Royal Treasure, Antwerp, 1996, pp. 168, 447.

E[verett] F[ahy] in L’Età di Savonarola: Fra Bartolomeo e la scuola di San Marco, exhib. cat. Florence, Palazzo Pitti and Museo di San Marco, 1996, p. 85, under no, 17.

Serena Padovani, "Il Tondo Visconti Venosta: un capolavoro della prima maturità di Fra Bartolommeo," in Un restauro per Fra' Bartolomeo, exh. cat. , edited by Lavinia Galli Michero, pp. 14–16, 19.

Bruce Boucher, "Notable Acquisitions at the Art Institute of Chicago," Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 32, no. 1 (2006), p. 56, ill. p. 57.

Hamboldt & Co. Singular Vision: Hamboldt & Co.'s Old Master Paintings and Drawings since 1983. Amserdamn: Hamboldt & Co., 2012. p. 36-37.

Ownership History

Sold through the Monastery of San Marco, Florence, to Domenico Perini, April 16, 1507; sent by Domenico Perini to France and possibly sold to Louis XII, King of France, along with a Noli me tangere now in the Louvre, according to a list of all Fra Bartolommeo’s pictures compiled in 1516; Bedemeau de Buxerolles, Poitou. Tabarly collection, Blois, Pierre Landry, Paris, by 1955; his heirs, sold, Christie’s, London, 11 July 2001, no. 68 to Haboldt, Paris; sold to AIC, 2005.