THE CHRISTMAS CANVAS: ‘The Mystic Nativity’ by Sandro Botticelli

“Look, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel which means ‘God with us’.”

The Nativity is a revelation of the extra-ordinary love of God. It has popularly featured in cultural art since ages. Among the hundreds of depictions of the Nativity, Botticelli’s ‘Mystic Nativity’ emerges as a tough nut to crack thanks to its complexity of structure and symbolism.

At first glance it is a perfect Christmas image. Mary and Joseph kneel on either side of the Christ Child. They are accompanied by shepherds and kings who in humble devotion adore baby Jesus. The heavenly attendants in divine ardour reveal to the participants the Mystery of the ‘Emmanuel’.

So far, so nativity!

However a closer gaze at the painting would reveal something extra-ordinary. The painting in consideration is remotely a ‘Merry Christmas’ illustration. It presents an unconventional plurality of reality. Let’s then delve deep into the mystery of Botticelli’s ‘Mystic Nativity’.

We are greeted at the top of the painting by a quote that is a mystery in itself: “I, Sandro, made this picture at the conclusion of the year 1500 in the troubles of Italy in the half time after the time according to the 11th chapter of Saint John in the second woe of the Apocalypse during the loosing of the devil.

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