Christmas in art is usually represented via the Adoration of the Magi. There are dozens of paintings with three wise men of the East kneeling in front of the cradle, with the Virgin presenting her Son, and Joseph standing back, respectfully. Artists played with light coming from the star right onto Christ, with angels cheering up or even dancing (Botticelli), with various saints and benefactors attending the scene, but few dared to capture the Christmas spirit beyond a trite illustration of the Bible. Most artists didn’t have the creative liberty to experiment. Clients wanted the Magi, and a client’s wish was just as sacrosanct as the story itself, if not more so.
My favourite representation of Christmas is the Holy Family with Angels by Rembrandt (St.Petersburg, the Hermitage), painted three years after Rembrandt’s wife died leaving him a widowed father.
Rembrandt makes the observer actively present, and not a passive voyeur, by using…
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