This Christmas season has been a busy one over on The Famous Artists. While I am still building the catalog of artist biographies, I have added 8 new pictures of The Holy Family, The Nativity and The Adoration of the Magi over the past few days.
Did you know that the first creche or Nativity scene was organized by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223? He was visiting the mountain town of Grecio, Italy to celebrate Christmas. The chapel at the Franciscan hermitage he was visiting was too small for everyone to attend Midnight Mass. He decided to hold the Christmas Mass outside, near the town square in an alcove of rock. With the blessing of Pope Honorius III, Assisi used hay, an ox, an ass and villagers to create the first living Nativity scene.
St. Bonaventure, in his biography of St. Francis of Assisi, said that Assisi gave the Mass “bathed in tears and radiant with joy.” Assisi was so moved his by love of Christ and the scene before him that he was unable to utter His name and instead called the infant sleeping in the manger the Babe of Bethlehem.
The Nativity painting shown here is by the famous Italian artist of the early Renaissance – Giotto. It depicts the Basilique Assise, the Legend of St. Francis and the Institution of the Crib at Greccio. He has captured that moment when Assisi holds the village child portraying the infant Jesus. Giotto lived between 1267 and 1337. This work is undated.
On The Famous Artists I have been working on building a collection of Nativity paintings by the famous artists profiled on the site. There are two beautiful additional works by Giotto along with Nativity paintings by Paolo Uccello, Arthur Hughes, Pietro Cavallini and Bernardo Daddi.
I think my favorite among the Nativity paintings that I’ve included so far is Birth of Christ by Paolo Uccello. Uccello was a 15th Century Italian painter who was fascinated by animals and placed the ox and ass in the center of the work next to Jesus.
It is a bit different from the other works on the site in that it is a picture of a stained glass piece. I think the dark background and the illuminated glass make it a truly stunning representation of the Nativity and the Holy Birth. Wouldn’t it would make a beautiful image to use with a Christmas card or other holiday project. (Follow the link to the picture to see a larger version of this work.)
As we get closer to Christmas, I hope to continue adding more paintings of the Nativity by famous artists to my site. It is my sincere wish that you enjoy these beautiful pieces as much as I do and have a truly blessed Christmas.