Unknown and unpublished, this intimate scene of The Nativity
is a new addition to the oeuvre
of Giuseppe Maria Crespi. Crespi treated this subject on a handful of other occasions, the closest being a Holy Family with Saint Bernard
in the Pinacoteca, Ascoli Piceno.1
The Ascoli Piceno picture is also on copper, and of small in scale (17.5 x 21 cm.; oval), depicting Mary, Joseph and Saint Bernard half length, pouring over the sleeping Child - Saint Joseph has his finger raised to his lips with the same quietening gesture of the Madonna in the present work. The position of the Christ Child is also comparable, although the Ascoli Piceno copper depicts Him turned around, with His feet projecting towards the viewer.
Mira Pajes Merriman dates the Ascoli Piceno Holy Family with Saint Bernard to circa 1735–40.
1. M. Pajes Merriman, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Milan 1980, p. 264, cat. no. 112, reproduced fig. 112.