Thursday, December 28, 2006

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 4

The Nativity, El Greco, 1603-1605

El Greco's style always fascinates me. Just as an early music teacher told me I have "square ears" (meaning he thought my love for eight-bar phrases and conventional cadence harmonies was somewhat dull), I tend to have "square eyes" when it comes to art. Far ahead of his time, El Greco bent and even broke some of the artistic conventions of his day, particularly with his use of color, perspective, and in the poses of his subjects.

In this example, there is much for even my "square eyes" to like. I love the way El Greco has captured the simplicity of Mary and Joseph. Rather than romaticizing them, he shows them as real people. The Child is portrayed similarly. The artist portrays the starkness of the stable; can't you almost smell the ox? Only the pure whiteness of the Infant's blanket gives a sense of the supernatural here. (I especially like that Madonna is clothed in red. It suits her!)

"The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh."

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