The occasion for the creation of this “Nativity scene”, painted by Francesco Francia between 1498 and 1499, was the happy completion of the journey to the Holy Land by the second son of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, Anton Galeazzo, who we see worshiping next to the Virgin wearing a knight’s attire, a pilgrim's unkempt beard and the red cross on his cloak.

The young man standing on the right is his brother Alessandro, Captain of Weapons, dressed as a shepherd, but wearing on his head a wreath of oak leaves, symbol of victory.

The painter and goldsmith Francesco Francia was an important artist during Bologna’s Renaissance. Of the many works made by the artist, a large part was made up of commissions for the Bentivoglio family, who held the lordship of Bologna until 1506.

Devotion and political promotion were the guiding iconographical ideas in the altarpiece of the Bentivoglio family, who participate in the adoration of the child together with the Holy Family and Saints Augustine in Episcopal dress and Francis, represented by an old cloak over a traditional habit.

An immobile crystalline landscape enhances the quiet of the sacred representation, while a massive architectural ruin reminds us of the end of paganism determined by the birth of Jesus. The flawless technique, glazed colours, refined and balanced beauty of every tiny detail are the key to Francia’s classicism, embellished by the influence of contemporary Florentine art and the optical sensitivity of Flemish painting.