The Nativity, in Coffer

A work made of woodcut in black, hand colored with brush, stencil and watercolor on ivory laid paper mounted on the inside cover of a coffer, constructed of wood, iron, leather, horsehair and linen.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of woodcut in black, hand colored with brush, stencil and watercolor on ivory laid paper mounted on the inside cover of a coffer, constructed of wood, iron, leather, horsehair and linen.

Date:

c. 1490

Artist:

Workshop of the Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany (French, active Paris, 1480-1510)
coffer by an unknown maker (French, 15th century)

About this artwork

This woodcut and coffer demonstrate the very unusual survival of a print in its original context. Incredibly, ten other impressions of this stencil-colored, mass-produced Nativity survive, all also in boxes, and approximately one hundred other French coffers ornamented with similar prints exist. Their original purpose, however, remains uncertain. Despite their metal reinforcements and standardized lock, they were not sturdy enough to be strapped to pack animals. They may instead have been worn as backpacks, with the cushion on the bottom allowing the container to sit on the traveler’s knees for use as a movable shrine. A shallow secret compartment in the lid of this example is equally mysterious. It may have held contact relics, such as fabric or hair, or even consecrated Communion wafers, an unseen presence that would have reinforced the devotional value of the entire object.

On View

Prints and Drawings, Gallery 238

Artist

Master of the Unicorn Hunt

Title

The Nativity, in Coffer

Origin

France

Date

1485–1495

Medium

Woodcut in black, hand colored with brush, stencil and watercolor on ivory laid paper mounted on the inside cover of a coffer, constructed of wood, iron, leather, horsehair and linen

Dimensions

231 × 164 mm (woodcut, image); 220 × 330 × 150 mm (bo×)

Credit Line

George F. Harding Deaccessions Fund; Restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Vance; The Amanda S. Johnson and Marion J. Livingston Fund

Reference Number

2009.49

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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