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My Favourite Nativity Scene

The oil painting The Adoration of the Shepherds was painted between 1500 and 1535 by the Italian painter and architect Bartolomeo Suardi, best known as Bramantino. It belongs to the art collection Rijksmuseum  Amsterdam. This image was selected as picture of the day on Wikimedia Commons for 24 December 2012. Wikimedia rightly regard this as one of their finest images.

And who was Bramantino? This is what the National Gallery (in London) has to say about him:

The artist’s real name was Bartolomeo Suardi. The name Bramantino suggests he was associated with the architect Bramante, but the nature of this relationship is not known. A number of paintings attributed to him, including ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ in the Collection, have prominent architectural elements and carefully constructed perspective schemes. These could be associated with an architectural training.Bramantino was active in Milan and recorded in Rome in 1508. In 1525 he was appointed painter and architect to Francesco Sforza II, ruler of Milan.Leonardo da Vinci overwhelmingly influenced many local painters in Milan, but it appears that Bramantino was not one of them. Stylistically his works continue the tradition of the pre-Leonardesque Milanese painting of Butinone and Foppa. Bramantino’s work also shows influences from further afield, notably that of Piero della Francesca and of Mantegna.

Related paintings

The Adoration of the Kings

The Adoration of the Kings (Magi) is also attributed to Bramantino and is thought to have been painted a little earlier, around 1500.
It seems hard to believe that they are both by the same artist. All the humanity of the main picture has gone. Whereas, in the ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’, Mary’s focus is completely on the Christ child, as is that of Joseph, the representative shepherd and the cow. Even the donkey is surreptitiously having a peek.
In the ‘Adoration of the Kings’, mother and child are turning away from each other.
But mostly what I love about the top picture is the detail. I can’t think that the crib would have made a very successful manger – all the hay would have fallen out of the sides through the open-weave basket work. It suggests, on the contrary, that it was a lightweight cradle specially designed by Joseph the carpenter to have been brought with them on the journey, ready for the birth. In the foreground is what we would now call a holdall, again lightweight luggage which would not look out of place in the 21st century. And the poor shepherd is scratching his head in wonder and puzzlement at it all. I think it is a delight.
But I wouldn’t give you tuppence for ‘The Adoration of the Kings’!

Lay Anglicana wishes all its readers and contributors a very blessed Christmas.

1 comment on this post:

Chris Fewings said...

Thank you for posting the link to Jesus Christ the apple tree. It’s so beautiful.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green;
The trees of nature fruitless be,
Compar’d with Christ the apple tree.

This beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought,
I miss’d of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m wearied with my former toil,
Here I shall sit and rest awhile;
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

With great delight I’ll make my stay,
There none shall fright my soul away;
Among the songs of men I see,
There’s none like Christ the apple tree.

I’ll sit and eat this fruit divine,
It cheers my heart like spiritual wine;
And now this fruit is sweet to me,
That grows on Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

(Author unknown. First appeared in print in London, 1761.)

See also Love’s the ground that breaks the fall.

25 December 2012 01:03

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