Copyright 2011 College of Saint Benedict. All rights reserved.
Artifacts; Original Drawings, Paintings, Icons, Calligraphy;
This object was both dry and damp cleaned according to directions from a conservation expert when it was received at Clemens Library.
This original work is a rectangular wood panel painted with a depiction of the Nativity of Christ and framed with an ornate, arched silver inner frame embossed with grapevines, peacocks and crosses.
Following Eastern Christian iconographic conventions, the subject depicted is also named. In a field of gold across the top of the painting is written “Ή ΓΈΝΝΗΣΙΣ Το̌ [abbr.] ΧΡο̌ [abbr.]”, literally translated: “The Genesis of Christ”.
God is represented as radiant light emanating from the highest point in the picture, piercing through the mountain that dominates the center of the composition, and into the mountain’s dark cave. At the mouth of the cave is a sepulchral box where the newborn Christ lies, wrapped in swaddling bands. Just behind the child, an ox and ass watch intently. The Mother of God kneels to the viewer’s left of the child. She and the child, Jesus Christ, are identified with Greek abbreviations painted in gold against the black mouth of the cave. The Mother of God is clothed in a blue inner robe and deep red maphorion (one-piece veil and mantle), with stars on the forehead and shoulders symbolizing her perpetual virginity. Her arms are crossed over her breast in an attitude of adoration; she gazes intently at her child, and her body bends slightly towards him as if her gaze draws her entire being in its direction.
Joseph, Mary’s husband, kneels to the viewer’s right of the Christ child, trains his gaze on the child and gestures towards him, as if pointing the way to a flock of sheep gathered nearby and watching Joseph for instructions.
Around this central group there is a great deal of activity. In the foreground, on the left, a shepherd sits cross-legged and plays a musical instrument. To the right, behind Joseph, an angel speaks to a shepherd carrying a lamb on his shoulder. To the left, behind Mary, three angels (one is nearly obscured by the other two) gesture toward the mountain as if guiding someone outside the picture frame. Below them are the three Magi, richly accoutered and bearing precious gifts.
The silver frame is stamped “950”, lower right, to signify that it is sterling.
There is a metal hanger on back.
Labels on the back of the panel read: “Made in Greece” “C948 $210.00 45113”. A certificate of authenticity in Greek, English, Italian and Spanish reads: “Certificate. Holy icon made of pure silver 950⁰ with hagiography made on canvas copy of Byzantine art.” There is a blue ink stamp in Greek.