Christmas art throughout the ages, especially the Middle Ages, is extraordinarily compelling and beautiful. Medieval art is the art I choose to be reproduced on my Christmas cards.
Since in the Middle Ages the Vatican and the Catholic church were major patrons of the arts, artists who wanted commissions had to work in a religious theme. “The Annunciation” was a favorite. I love at least fifteen different depictions.
Mary receiving news that she is pregnant although she is a virgin was an irresistible subject: An opportunity to paint a beautiful woman in a state of surprise or shock. Plus design an angel: What fun!
Above, the Florentine artist Fra Angelico, in 1457 painted either his girlfriend or the prettiest girl in town as Mary. And he took full advantage of the opportunity to design a marvelously elegant angel: Note the very clever wings. Further, Fra Angelico showcased his expertise at depicting marble, fabrics and architecture. Indeed. It is a fabulous painting. And it garnered him many more commissions.
Four Hundred Years Later.
While The Annunciation was quite marvelous as a subject in the Middle Ages, the artistic thrill sadly dissipated. This is by John Collier, a witty English illustrator (1850 – 1934).
The girl isn’t beautiful but she IS surprised. She’s in the suburbs and the angel’s wings look like they were rented. The mystery and magnificence are gone. Sometimes it’s better to live in the past. Christmas in 2015 has other advantages. Enjoy them all.