December 23, 2022

More Merry Christmas!

         Each year as we approach Christmas I think about posting some Christmas-themed block prints and (unlike with the Hanukkah illustrations) there seems to be a nearly inexhaustible supply of them to share.  Sure, there are similarities among the many illustrations of mothers and infants, stables and stars, but there are also wonderful variations in the ways different artists have approached the two thousand year old motifs of Christmas.  To see those I’ve posted in the past, you can revisit these posts:

Nativity 1

Nativity 2

Nativity 3

Merry Christmas! (2021)

Merry Christmas! (2019)

Merry Christmas! (2018)

Los Pastores

        This year I have yet another selection of beautiful nativity scenes.  We start with my favorite of this batch, by Emma Schlangenhausen.  I like the haloes, and the glowing baby.  Interestingly, there are no people in the scene besides Mary and Jesus, but just a host of angels flocking to adore him.  There are, however, sheep and one shepherd visible out on the distant hills.  Perhaps the angels have already given them the good news and then zipped on ahead to visit Jesus while 
the shepherds have to make their way through the night.
        Today’s second piece, by Rufino Tamayo, also features angels beside Mary, but otherwise it’s very different.  Instead of solid blacks and whites, it’s all rough lines of texture.  Instead of a glowing baby Jesus, the baby isn’t even really visible, but is presumably nestled in his crescent-moon-shaped manger.  Between the manger like a moon and the straw morphing into cloud-like shapes, this almost seems to place Madonna and Child up in the sky.
        Mary is accompanied by lots of people in the third piece, by Fritz Eichenberg.  The triptych composition is quite traditional, and works well to focus on Mary and Jesus while still including the other elements of the story.  I’m not sure whether the men on the right are meant to be the three wise men.  If so, they’re certainly not dressed as kings, and their gifts are not the traditional caskets of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  I particularly like the tenderness on the face of the man standing to the left, who may be Joseph.
        And finally, a medieval Madonna.  In medieval art, Jesus never looks like a newborn, and Mary tends to look a little sour, but this still has some beautiful touches.  I like the haloes with crowns, and the folds of the robes.  Saint Ulrich on the left actually has a funny little smile (and holds a fish, in the odd way of saints).  But my favorite part is the framing at the top, where branches suggest an architectural arch over the people, with leaves and flowers suggesting the night sky and stars.
        The thing about the Christmas story is that we can keep repeating it year after year, and while different people find resonance (or not) in some of the various details, I think just about everyone can take joy in the reminder that love is born in even the smallest and most humble corners of the world.

[Pictures: Weihnacht, wood block print by Emma Schlangenhausen, 1933 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);

Virgin, woodcut by Rufino Tamayo, 1928-30 (Image from Davis Museum);

Nativity scene, woodcut by Fritz Eichenberg, 20th century (Image from Davis Museum);

The Madonna and Child between Saints Ulrich and Afra, hand colored woodcut, Augsburg school, c. 1490s (Image from Davis Museum).]


Pax said...

I think Eichenberg delighted in ordinary people, often the laboring poor. I wonder if the figures on the side panels are meant to bring them all into the story instead of the usual highlighting of royalty?

Blackmax said...

Good morning, hope you had a good time;)