Nativity Scene.
 Honthorst, Gerrit van, 1590-1656

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Title:Nativity Scene

This traditional, yet strikingly realistic representation of the visitation of the shepherds puts us in the stable with the shepherds. We can sense the wonder and delight that these astonished rural folk feel in the presence of the newly born, the incarnate Messiah. The incorporation of the baby's shining, bright light speaks to the Johannine theme of Christ as The Light.

Many of Gerard Van Honthorst’s paintings employ the use of artificial and unusual lighting effects, such as the dramatic use of dark and glow in this nativity scene. This emphasis on light stems from Honthorst’s membership in the Utrecht Caravaggisti, the Dutch followers of the Italian painter Caravaggio. But beyond the group nomenclature, Honthorst was given the Italian nickname ‘Gherardo delle Notti’ for his particular use of light and shadow to create moving nocturnal scenes.[1] Honthorst's use of light in the midst of dark night may be better understood when we learn that he had been described by a contemporary as "very reserved and melancholic." [2] In this Christmas season, may we reflect, perhaps as Honthorst did, upon the great gift of the Christ-child, who brings forth light and hope even in the dark and melancholy corners of our lives.

[1], Gerrit van in Oxford Art Online
[2] Ibid.

Artist:Honthorst, Gerrit van, 1590-1656

Scripture:John 1:1-14
Luke 2:1-20
Lectionary links:CNatv
General Subject:Adoration of the Shepherds
Library of Congress Subject:Christian art and symbolism -- Netherlands
ICONCLASS Number:73B25

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Copyright Permission:This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to use and to share the file for non-commercial purposes under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license compatible with this one. For uses other than the above, contact the Divinity Library at
Attribution:Honthorst, Gerrit van, 1590-1656. Nativity Scene, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved January 16, 2021]. Original source:
Record Number:46662 Last Updated: 2021-01-13 20:25:45 Record Created: 2006-07-27 00:00:00
Institution:Vanderbilt University Unit: Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition