The Nativity

Pieter de Grebber, 1600 - 1653

The Nativity

Pieter de Grebber 1600 - 1653


This is a mature work by the important Dutch Catholic painter Pieter de Grebber, who was active in and around Haarlem, one of the most powerful provinces of the Northern Netherlands. He trained with his father, Frans Pietersz. de Grebber (1573-1649) and with Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1616), who is known to have travelled to Italy. De Grebber was an important Haarlem academician and one of the leading exponents of Dutch Classicism. He developed eleven rules of painting, published in a broadsheet in 1650. He was strongly influenced by Flemish painters, especially Rubens and Jacob Jordaens. He specialised in large biblical, historical and mythological scenes, among which this, with its figures strongly illuminated against a sombre background, is a typical example. In this tender and intimate Nativity scene, the Virgin pulls back the Infant's cover, while the midwife gently lifts the child up so that the assembled company can see him clearly. The surrounding figures display a range of powerful emotions, gestures and poses. They are softly painted, in earthy colours, with the exception of the cool blue of the Virgin's robe. The skin tones are peachy and delicate. The landscape format suggests that it was intended to decorate the wall, rather than the altarpiece of a clandestine Catholic church. Although the Northern Netherlands were Protestant, Catholics were tolerated if they worshipped in private. De Grebber evidently followed his own Eleven Rules of Art in making this work: clearly a devotional piece, it works well viewed from most angles, but achieves its best effect when viewed slightly from the left, indicating that it was painted with a specific location in mind.

Object Name

The Nativity

Creators Name

Pieter de Grebber

Date Created



unframed: 141.5 x 177.2
framed: 164.2cm x 200.5cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


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