Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Nativity of St Luke

Antoniazzo Romano (Antonio Aquili) (1430/5-1510)  
Natività con i santi Lorenzo e Andrea
Nativity with Saints Lawrence and Andrew 
Tempera on panel
142 x 176 cm
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica Palazzo Barberini, Rome

The angel unfurls a banner with the Good News:
The infant lies on the bare ground adored by one and all, Here we see the Flemish influence of Hugo van der Groes

The infant lies on a bundle of grain. He is to be the new bread of the Eucharist

Christ is priest as well as sacrifice

In the foreground are the anemone and cyclamen: flowers that symbolise the passion of Christ

On one side the angel gives the  news to the shepherds. 

In the foreground, the central image: the Holy Family by their hut or stable with the animals  accompanied by Saints Lawrence and Andrew who will follow Christ into martyrdom

The animals are an ox and an ass

On the right shepherds tend their flocks in a pastoral scene reminscent of Lazio

And in New York (see below)  is a similar but smaller work by Romano which was meant to be the central panel of a three-part predella that originally included the Feast of Herod (Gemäldegalerie, SMPK, Berlin; no. S 4, 29 x 45 cm) and Saint Jerome Healing the Lion's Foot (Ca' d'Oro, Venice; no. 118, 29 x 45 cm). The centre altarpiece would have been a Madonna and Child 

Antoniazzo Romano (Antonio Aquili) (1430/5-1510)  
The Nativity
c 1482
Tempera on panel
29.2 x 67.3 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

There are of course some differences:

It is not a stable but a cave where the Holy Family lodge

Mary and Joseph are younger and more vigorous and the motif of adoration of the Christ Child  is emphasised more

Only the parents are shown in adoration

As befits one of the three founders of the Compagnia di San Luca, the guild of painters in Rome, the narrative of the Nativity is firmly based on the Gospel of St Luke, probably the most repeated narrative of the Birth of Our Lord and the one best known

Even after nearly two thousand years, the story never fails to surprise and inspire

Here we see the statutes of the Company of St Luke being presented to St Luke, who is accompanied by his "symbol", the ox, the sacrificial animal of the Old Testament and one of the animals traditionally depicted at the crib of Our Lord

St Luke receives the statutes of the University of Painters
Statutes of the Company of St Luke
Codice minato dall’Accademia di San Luca di Roma, Archivio Storico, Fondo B. 4,