Les Enluminures

3. Hours of the Virgin
Passion Cycle

Nativity and Christ before Pilate

Quite often in the late Middle Ages, the Christ Child of the Nativity was shown naked and lying on the cold bare ground. Nearby his parents kneel and worship their Son and God. In this illustration for Prime, these elements are more dramatically rendered with the Savior, rather forlorn, upon the ground. Representations of the Adoration of the naked Christ Child on the ground and surrounded by rays of light can be traced to the influence of fourteenth-century St. Bridget of Sweden. In the last years of her life, Bridget made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and while in Bethlehem had a vision of Christ's birth; accounts of her experience, which she wrote before her death, circulated widely, especially after her canonization in 1391.

Swinging off to the left of the Nativity, like the small wing of an altarpiece, is an image of Christ before Pilate. The traditional Infancy cycle for the Hours of the Virgin is sometimes accompanied by an ancillary cycle illustrating Christ's Passion. The series normally includes the Agony in the Garden (at Matins), Betrayal (Lauds), Christ before Pilate (as here at Prime), Flagellation (Terce), Christ Carrying the Cross (Sext), Crucifixion (None), Deposition (Vespers), and Entombment (Compline).