Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas blessings

My "Christmas card" is running a bit late this year, and I had to do some rummaging around to find something I liked, since I've rather neglected this blog and have a couple of hundred pictures in the "To be Filed" folder.

Here is a picture of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, which is actually where the Christmas story all began, according to the Christian tradition. This is a tempera painting on wood from about 1460-1470, painted probably in Vienna by the Master of "Maria am Gestade" which translates literally as "Mary of the Shore." While I didn't notice it at first glance, you can indeed make out a bit of a view of water through the side window of this chamber.

Madonna of the Shore

This may not look like a rosary picture at first glance, but a rosary is there, all right. This is one of those tremendously rich little paintings full of details of domestic objects. Look at the cupboard in the top left corner of the painting. There's a rosary hanging over the edge of the shelf:

Detail, Madonna of the Shore

There are also details of bottles and jars on a shelf; an elaborate gold cup, book and fruit on a table; and a sewing box, pattens (medieval overshoes) and a vase of flowers on the floor. In many paintings, and probably this one, each of these objects has meaning, expressing the virtues of the Virgin or some aspect of the mystery of the coming of Christ.

This is a very graceful painting: the angel on the left, earnestly pointing toward heaven: God the Father hovering outside the window, sending the Dove of the Holy Spirit winging toward Mary, who has turned away from her book to say her Yes to the angel. That appears to be Joseph sitting on a bench in the garden, half asleep and leaning on his staff.

By the way, if you'll look closely, you can see that the photos bear a copyright notice: I got them from REALonline, the photo index from Austria (which I talked about here). I go back there every so often just to see whether there's something new, and often there is.

But I'm done with research for the day now, and I have Christmas presents to finish.

May the blessings of Christmas be with you, and may we all be open to hear the message of peace, now and at every season.

previous christmas cards:

Christmas 2008
Christmas 2007
Christmas 2006
Christmas 2005