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.
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."