La Salle University Art Museum
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The Nativity

Jan Provost

The Nativity, c. 1500

Oil on Panel


Provost was, along with his mentors, Gerard David and Quentin Massys, an influential Northern Renaissance painter. The artist portrays the infant Christ lying on a bed of straw in a lowly stable with his parents, Mary and Joseph, kneeling before him. Surprising is the inclusion of a Cistercian monk in the right hand foreground. Tonsured and dressed in the cowled, white habit of this order, the figure may be the twelfth-century St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian order. The figure's inclusion points to a Cistercian source for the painting's commission.  

Condition of the Artwork (2009):

Each vertical board has a slight, convex warp. The peak of the panel has been slightly chipped on the reverse. Fine, very slightly cupped age cracking is visible overall. Abrasion along cupped peaks is visible in many areas. The face of Joseph is somewhat abraded and has poorly done repaint. There is slight abrasion in the face of the monk. There is poorly matched repaint in the roof. There are small abrasions and paint losses scattered overall. Areas of gold paint applied to the robes, and rays of light have been abraded down to the yellow-tan underpaint in many areas. The applied frame, which seems to be original, is flaking badly and has been heavily repainted over the years.

Conservation Treatment Proposed:

  • Remove any light surface grime.
  • Inpaint paint losses and adjust some of the existing inpainting to clarify the visibility of the image. Areas that could be clarified with inpainting: The face of Joseph, Mary's robes, Manger's roof, manger structure.
  • Apply a thin layer of a conservation quality finish varnish overall.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:   $3,000.00