This charming and tender illustration of a popular apocryphal subject, the Birth of the Virgin Mary, attempts to convey two contrasting ideas - the domestic, everyday birth scene, and the divine nature of the event. Many details allude to the double dimension of the representation: the first is introduced through homely details such as the midwife in the centre, who kneels with a basin of water, and the lady on the left, with the dog next to her. The second is marked by the heavenwards glance of Anna (Mary’s mother), the putti in the sky, and the divine golden light coming in from the top-left of the canvas.
Luca Giordano was the leading painter of the Kingdom of Naples in the second half of the seventeenth century. He was an artist with an international reputation who was in demand in Rome, Florence, and Madrid. He also worked in Venice (1664–1674), where his approach to colour was influenced by Titian (1488/90-1576) and Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). While in Venice, Giordano produced three altarpieces for the church of Santa Maria della Salute, depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. Of these, one shows the Birth of the Virgin, a subject that continued was reproduced several times by the artist later in his career.
Signed, Giordano ft.
Luca Giordano The Birth of the Virgin Mary About 1690 © Compton Verney