Rather than integrate Western motifs into the framework of an icon, this image takes the unusual approach of juxtaposing Italian and Byzantine styles on either side of a diagonal line running from the bottom left corner to the top right corner of the panel. It could possibly be, as some have suggested, the work of two different artists, one working in the Western and the other in the Byzantine tradition.
The panoramic landscape which reflects the Italo-Flemish tradition of the era is distinctive because it not only occupies a totally unusual area, but is also structured using the rules of perspective which are absent from icon painting. The succession of small valleys help to provide depth of field and a blue sky dotted with clouds replaces the gold background.
The icon tells the story of the birth of Christ celebrated on 25 December, Christmas Day. On that day, the Orthodox church celebrates “the Nativity according to the Body of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ” and remembers “the Shepherds who saw the Lord”, as well as the “adoration of the Magi”. These familiar events from the gospels are enhanced with elements from the Tradition which help to illustrate in pictures the theological doctrine of the divine incarnation which it is stated is “real and not illusory”.