Birth of the Virgin

   The celebration of the birth of the Virgin Mary on 8 September has taken place since the sixth century when her cult intensified after the Council of Ephesus. The story is not biblical but rather apocryphal. Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne, were old when they conceived her, so her birth is considered miraculous. In art, the event is usually depicted in an interior domestic setting, with St. Anne reclining on the bed and the newborn being washed by the midwives who assisted in the birth. This is how Pietro Lorenzetti (1342; Siena, Museo dell' Opera del Duomo) and Domenico Beccafumi (c. 1542; Siena, Accademia) depicted the scene. In these works, Joachim is seated in an adjacent room awaiting the news of the child's birth. Albrecht Altdorfer placed his rendition (1525; Munich, Alte Pinakothek) in a Gothic interior church setting with a crown of angels hovering above the seated Anne, who holds the Virgin in her arms. With this he asserted the religious significance of the birth of the mother of God and her role as Ecclesia, Holy Mother of the Church.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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