Chester Beatty Library
The water jug in the foreground may be a vestige of earlier depictions of the birth of Mary, which often depicted midwives bathing the infant. (Many early images of Jesus’ nativity also show the bathing of the infant.) There is no text—canonical or noncanonical—describing this event, but it was customary in Roman times to include the bath in scenes of a great person’s birth. We have pictures, for example, of Alexander the Great’s first bath, and that of certain deities, such as Dionysus.