Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Nativity feat. St. Pincushion & the Fashionistas



The Nativity is one of those things that gets painted a lot.  Key elements usually include Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph (maybe – as foster dad, he’s kind of ignored sometimes), and some combination of wise men, shepherds, angels, or animals.
 
The Nativity – Perino del Vaga, 1534


As far as paintings of the nativity go, I quite like this one by Perino del Vaga.  It’s full of motion without being too busy, the figures are smooth, and there is lots of pretty color.   However, it takes a bit of a creative perspective of who was at the birth of Jesus.  


First off, we have Adult John the Baptist.  Baby John the Baptist is often pictured with Baby Jesus, or the adult versions of both, but the adult-baby combo is less common.  St. John was known for going around wearing a garment of camel’s hair, often worn as a symbol of mourning or penance, and generally thought to be pretty uncomfortable.  Del Vaga’s St. John seems to prefer a silk ensemble with mink lining. 

But he’s got nothing on this guy.


I’m not immediately positive who this is supposed to be, so we’ll call him St. Flamboyant.  I think his raiment was designed to be visible from space.  He seems to be pointing and commenting snidely to his companion at the lack of finery of one of the other attendants of Young Christ: St. Target Practice.


This is St. Sebastian.  Wikipedia’s sidebar information on him has a list of his Attributes: “Tied to a post, pillar or a tree, shot by arrows, clubbed to death.”  This could also be a list of “Things I would not like to be remembered for.”   He seems pretty spry for someone with half a dozen arrow punctures oozing lifeblood everywhere, though.  Side note: in a delightful bit of Catholic irony, he is also the patron saint of archers.

The best part of this painting, though, is baby Jesus himself.


I can’t tell whether he is having a seizure, or if he is an exceptionally young prodigy of the disgusted eyeroll normally not perfected until the teenage years.  It's as if he's saying, "Just stop adoring me and leave me alone already.  This is so EMBARRASSING."

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. I so look forward to your posts and they are so enjoyable. This one was particularly hilarious.

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    1. Thank you, Carol! It is always good to hear that my efforts to get myself banned for life from art museums are enjoyed. :)

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  2. St. Flamboyant... so funny. The things that people paint. I wonder what Dr.Fraud has to say about this painting.

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    1. I'm sure he would have something to say about St. Sebastian's impassiveness to repeated penetration.

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  3. Jesus seems to be looking at his Daddy and saying "Why the hell did you stick in me in this kooky ashram?" Some of St Target Practice's darts have been pulled out - I'd like to have seen his face when that happened.

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    1. I can't say as I blame Jesus for that sentiment - a lot of the people in this picture have exceedingly unpleasant deaths in their futures (including himself, and notwithstanding St Target Practice, who by all accounts should already be pushing up daisies here).

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  4. St. Flamboyant got me too -- I think that's what Jesus is rolling his eyes about. He's all "That old queen thinks he knows fashion and those robes are SO BC."

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    1. Although in some ways he was ahead of his time - I think those neck ruffles would make some Tudor people jealous.

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  5. Isn't St. Flamboyant one of the three kings? I don't know. The first thing that caught my eye was St. Sebastian. You'd think God would have been kind enough to at least take the arrows out. The second thing was Jesus's cavernous bellybutton. And what's Mary doing with that quill? Is she going to give baby J a henna tattoo?

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    1. The only reason I suspect he's not one of the three kings is that he's got a halo, which is usually more of a saint thing... Also, I'm thinking at this point the arrows might be providing structural support to keep St. Sebastian's organs from falling out.

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