Virgin Mary and St. Joseph at Bethlehem
Author: Bento Coelho da Silveira (?)
Material: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions (cm): 178,7 x 271,8
Inv. no.: PD0050dep / PD0723dep / PNA66710
It is through the reading of the Gospels, specifically Saint Luke’s, that we can appreciate the historic context of the painting. There, the following can be read: ‘In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree stating that all the Empire should register as voters (and this registration first took place when Quirinius was the Governor of Syria). And everyone did so in his or her home-town.
Another source for the framework is the ‘Golden Legend’ in which it can be read: ‘And when they arrived, since all the guest-houses were full, they were forced to stay in a common area. And there was a stable for the donkey he brought with him, and for an ox’.
Louis Reau in his ‘Christian Iconography’ tells us that this passage was popularised by the ‘Théatre dês Mysteres’ – a form of Theatre that appeared in the 15th century and consisted of a series of moving images and written dialogues for a wide audience and that implemented and fuelled many stories, legends and beliefs. The supernatural and realism began to coexist.