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Record Image
Grebber, Pieter Fransz de (Dutch, b.1600, d.1652-1654), Artist
The Nativity
oil on canvas
1700 x 1705 mm sight size; 2070 x 2070 mm frame size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1967 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society.
In February of 1967, Valda Groeninger of Shortland Street, Auckland, wrote to the then director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Charlton Edgar: ‘I was wondering if you would be interested in a large 7ft x 7ft Nativity oil painting, originally from England and one which has been in the family for many years. Sadly I now find that I must part with it.’ The Gallery did not have an example of this kind of work in its collection; an offer of £400 was made and accepted, and the work was thus acquired. Before it was sent to Dunedin, the painting was cleaned by Les Lloyd, a conservator for the Auckland City Art Gallery, and from 1971 to 1980 director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. His cleaning revealed a signature, ‘Grebber’, in brush point, at the lower right, and the attribution to Pieter Fransz de Grebber was subsequently investigated and confirmed. The work was an immediate hit in Dunedin, and in 1967, the same year that it was acquired, the Dunedin Public Library requested permission to use the image on its Christmas card.
The son of a painter and art dealer, de Grebber was taught to paint by his father and studied with fellow Haarlem artist, Hendrick Goltzius. Most of his paintings are religious; he produced many portraits of Roman Catholic priests and nuns and painted altarpieces and devotional images for churches, of which this work was probably one. Painting in a fashionable Baroque style, with dramatic lighting, flowing draperies and theatrical poses, the artist succeeds in impressing the viewer with the significance of the event being depicted.

not on view

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