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Advent Calendar 2004

December 18

Mystic Nativity, by Sandro Botticelli
Article by Joseph Phelan
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Botticelli: Mystic Nativity (detail) "And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2: 6-7)

From the almost endless number of images of the Birth of Christ, I have chosen Sandro Boticelli's Mystic Nativity. Kenneth Clark discussed this painting in Looking at Pictures:

"A painting of Christ's Nativity is often a comfortable Christmas card. Boticelli's picture is the reverse. It is the record of a spiritual struggle, a pilgrim's progress in which the pain is remembered.

"The Nativity is not one of those pictures which can be enjoyed through the eye alone. It is, in the best sense, a literary picture, to be read and slowly unriddled in the light of all that we can know about the painter and his times..."

Thus this wonderful painting offers an unusually rewarding way to pass a few hours with one's family and loved ones, or even by oneself, during this Christmas season.


This article is copyright 2002-04 by Joseph Phelan. Please do not republish any portion of this article without written permission.


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