This nativity painting by Botticelli uses the medieval convention of presenting the Virgin and infant Jesus larger in scale than the other figures and surroundings. This was done deliberately for effect not because there was lack of skill.
This nativity by Durer is interesting when analyzed. The way it is composed allows the viewer to become a participant in the scene. And the scene is full of stories and symbols. The clouds represent God, the ox and the ass bondage... and so on. The baby Jesus is not passive here but reaching out and touching the old man. “All peoples and all nations are represented by the old man on bended knee, Albrecht Dürer standing behind him, the African in dark green, and the turbaned Oriental still unpacking his gift. “
This Adoration by Quentin Massys was painted in 1526. Here the scene is totally pressed up against the picture plane. There is no room at the inn for US! Even the Virgin and Child are pushed to the left so there is room for all the visitors in their finery.
I know that when people visit a museum with a large collection of Medieval and Renaissance paintings they feel that the paintings all look the same. I hope these 3 examples change your mind. Within the limitations of what artists could paint…they managed to be incredibly creative and produce varied compositions with emphasis on different viewpoints.
I’ll take a holiday on December 25th. See you after that!!