The Nativity by Rogier de la Pasture was originally part of a triptych that also comprised the Pieta,housed in the same Capilla Real in Granada, and the Risen Christ Appearing to the Virgin now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. An almost identical version of this work is the altarpiece (now in Berlin) donated in 1445 to the monastery of Miraflores, near Burgos, by King John II of Castile, who had founded the monastery to serve as a mausoleum for himself and his wife, Isabella of Portugal. Today it is thought that this is the older of the two paintings, but that the version in Granada and New York is still van der Weyden's own work.
Particular care has been taken over the setting of the three scenes, which presents several features of interest. In each painting, for example, the color of Mary's dress is different, passing from white to red to blue. In the scene of the Nativitythe dress is white because the color symbolizes the Virgin's purity, also alluded to by the inscription on the scroll, which is a free adaptation of the apocryphal Gospel of James. The inscription on the border of the mantle also refers to the choice of the Virgin as Mother of Christ, with words taken from the Gospel of St. Luke which make up the prayer of the Magnificent:"My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God."
The decoration of the portals that frame the individual scenes is highly elaborate, reproducing scenes linked to the main representation.
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