Art Resource/Castelvecchio Museum, Verona

A distant star pierces stormy heavens to announce the birth of Jesus. As Pharaoh’s dream had announced the birth of Moses in Egypt, the bright star over Bethlehem announced Jesus’ birth.

In “Nativity,” by Tintoretto (1518–1594) nearly all those gathered in the manger, even the cow and the donkey, bend toward the baby and look at him; only Mary, her gaze falling to the baby’s left, avers. Most of the onlookers fold their arms in worship. The swirl of movement the figures create and the artist’s masterful use of light focus attention on the child.

Tintoretto imbued his paintings of Biblical subjects with an intensity and sprituality that matched the depth of his own religious beliefs.