For the blessed month of December, we are pleased to present this Guest Blog by Patricia Ballard, Head of ESAG's Spiritual Committee, on her beautiful painting "The Nativity".
The Nativity painting was commissioned by Archbishop Michael Miller in 2013 for his annual Christmas card design for 2014. In my research for this work I was influenced by the figures and landscape of Early Italian Renaissance painter Duccio di Buoninsegna and his masterpiece the Maesta (1308-1311). Duccio worked in the period which bridged the more mystical Gothic period with the natural rendering of nature found later in the Renaissance period.
In the scene, St. Joseph extends a protective and reverent hand towards Jesus and Mary. Mary, in all humility, points us towards her Son. Jesus’ right hand points to the lamb beneath the manger because he is the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world. Jesus’ left hand points both to Mary and to the Father who is symbolized by the large star in the firmament. Nearby are 3 shepherds who look on in curiosity and awe. They have answered the call of angels to ‘come and adore.’
The ox and the ass quietly look on. Indeed, all of nature cries out to welcome the Messiah. It is just before sunrise and the light on the distant town of Bethlehem shows the sun coming from the East. It is the dawn of a new era.
Jesus is shown as an older child and not as an infant. In the icon tradition this may be used to show that Jesus is all wisdom. Jesus’ halo has a cross on it and the Greek letters which are abbreviations for the words which mean “I AM WHO I AM” and in effect declare that Jesus is God. Some of the mountains reach up to the sky which is another icon convention to show nature adoring God.
The Nativity is painted with egg tempera paint on a wood panel with gold leaf. It is currently hanging in the John Paul 11 Pastoral Centre.
"In the tender compassion of Our God Dawn from on hiugh shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace." Canticle of Zachariah