Nativity of Christ, Joseph’s Dream
The scene from the childhood of Christ is framed under two arches, supported on three columns; in the spandrels between them miniature turrets are placed. Mary with a halo and veil is shown in her childbed, which appears in the lower part of the corner capital. She raises her left hand to the manger. The Christ Child, whose head has been lost by the weathering of the stone, lies in a manger supported on two columns. It resembles in shape a sacrificial altar – a deliberate presentiment of the Passion of Christ. The Child is warmed by the breath of the ox and the ass. An angel with outspread wings flutters overhead and bears in his left hand a censer suspended on a chain and in his right hand an oval dish containing something indistinguishable. It could be the food for Mary mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of the Pseudo-Matthew; when Mary was in the Temple “the angel of the Lord appeared to her, and from his hand she received nourishment” (Chap. 6.2).
On the other side of the capital Joseph is sitting at the foot of Mary’s bed; with one hand he holds a staff, with the other he supports his sideways-bent head. In dream he receives from an angel the warning to flee to Egypt with Mary and the Child. The angel’s wings to the right above him are adjusted to the rounded lunette. The angel’s right hand is laid on Joseph’s forehead.
In spite of the unusually compressed composition and the unrealistic portrayal of the curved bed, the execution of the faces and the details of this capital ensure that it is one of the highest in quality of the group.