Saturday, April 6, 2013

Northern European Renaissance (pt. 10)

This is the Portinari Altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes.
This time the patrons appear on both left and right panels, surrounding the characters of the center panel, which shows the nativity.  A number of angels surround the baby Jesus.  Mary is wearing blue this time; she makes a heart shape with her hands.  Columbine flowers are at the bottom of the painting (they are a symbol for Mary, though I don't know why).  There is both a bull and a donkey in the stable to the left, the first looking ahead at the historic birth of Christ, the second not even minding it—showing that both the righteous man (bull) and the ass (donkey) can claim to be "near" to God.  Even so, in this painting there are both heavenly angels and lowly shepherds present to see Christ born, but van der Goes does not show the shepherds in a negative light like the donkey.  In fact, the shepherds are the liveliest bunch of the whole party, clapping their hands, smiling, and showing the most personality.  The faith of the lowly shepherds would seem to be the most vivacious ("blessed are the poor in spirit").

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