About The Nativity of Mary
On this day the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ is read and in petition to Jesus, Son of Mary, we ask that He "Bless the people of the Sinai covenant".
The Family of Mary
The whimsical sculpture featured below is of the Holy Kinship; the extended family of the Holy Family. First posted in 2015, I have been adding more since.
"Although the canonical books of the New Testament never mention the parents of the Virgin Mary, traditions about her family, childhood, education, and eventual betrothal to Joseph developed very early in the history of the church. The oldest and most influential account of this kind is the apocryphal gospel called the Protevangelium of James, first written in Greek around the middle of the second century. The high status of the Protevangelium in the Eastern Church is attested by the survival of numerous manuscripts not only in Greek but also in Coptic (Sahidic), Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Old Church Slavonic, and Arabic translations. In the West, on the other hand, the Protevangelium fell under a cloud in the fourth and fifth centuries when it was accused of "absurdities" by St. Jerome and condemned as untrustworthy by Popes Damasus, Innocent I, and Gelasius. Jerome's most explicit complaint was that it explained the brothers of Jesus, mentioned most prominently in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56, as Joseph's sons by an earlier marriage. In the interpretation preferred by Jerome and the Western Church, the so-called brothers are interpreted as cousins of Jesus, sons of Mary's sisters, thus allowing both Joseph and Mary to be envisioned as lifelong virgins." excerpt from Sherry L. Reames. Watch the video at the bottom for more on this.
This polychrome carving was commissioned for a church and is representative of the Southern German Franconian or Swabian style, c. 1480. As you can see, it is a delightful and lovingly crafted, family presentation.
The artist has captured a moment in time, much like one would with a camera. We might compare it to the photographers job of today where he or she is is struggling to organize the "sitters" for a family portrait.
I have taken some time below to detail what I like about it.
St Anne is seated right center and behind her are her THREE dear husbands. Legend has it that she remarried after each husband's death and they appear to be an amicable male group. Although two had passed away, the author had no issue with presenting them all together as was the custom in medieval and earlier art.
Jesus is on Mary's lap and reaching for his grandma while Jesus' cousins are wriggling about on the floor. Even though her arms are extended to receive her grandson, Anne looks as if her mind is on something else. Maybe she is thinking about His future.
Look at these darling little rascals close-up. Why do some of the children wear clothing while the others (including Jesus) do not?
For Jesus at least, one reason given is that it was to demonstrate HIS true humanity. For Jesus, alone, His divinity is hidden in the form of his humanity. Three of the children are dressed royally in royal red, gold and blue.
Mary Salome is seated second from the left with her two children, Saints James the Apostle and John the Evangelist.
James the lesser or younger, Joseph or Joses, Simon, and Jude were explained as the sons of Mary Cleophas, who had married Alpheus. One of Mary Cleophas' children, on the right, is even seated on a rocking horse!
A most amusing part of this "portrait sitting" is the depiction of St Joseph. He looks unassuming or even bored by the whole affair. But that is how they often portrayed him, particularly during this period and before. Sometimes to indicate that he was dreaming or even doubted.
This "holy" indifference, as clearly shown above, might suggest that St Joseph had dreams during the night and, in this scene, he might simply be exhausted from all of those sleepless nights and the concern over what to do in order to effectively protect the family.
Yet, another explanation has to do with the idea that St Joseph needed to be viewed as the foster father of Jesus and not as the overly affectionate husband of Mary. In this way, it re-enforced and emphasized the teaching that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ.
How to portray the Holy Family?
All of this theological symbolism is difficult for an artist to portray visually.
During this time, Western artists were considering the various ways that St Joseph might relate to Jesus and Mary. Their lively art presented us with great stories for the imagination. Below we see a perfect example. This smallish sculpture, located at the Cluny museum, gives the idea a spin.
Mary appears to have been reading to Jesus once gain, when suddenly, He lept off her lap to play with St Joseph. It would appear that St Joseph has no choice but to get involved.
What a delightful, medieval sculptures, even for audiences in 2017.
A later portrait in oil.
The Nativity of Mary from an Orthodox perspective:
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
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Christine M. (CM) Jentz.
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“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.” (St. André Bessette)