So today has been a bit if a slobbing around day. It started with catching up on the Christmas day Dr. Who, which I really enjoyed. It will be a shame when David Tennant leaves. He has taken over from Jon Pertwee as my favourite Doctor. After that I watched the Christmas edition of Poirot, "Appointment with Death". Again I think that David Suchet is the ultimate Belgian detective beating even Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney. Of course all this was mindless entertainment and non the worse for this! However the great joy of the day was a programme from BBC 2 about the painiting "The Mystical Nativity" by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli.
I have to be honest and say that I had never seen or even heard of this painting until I had watched this most informative programme. Of course the centre piece of the work is the traditional image of the Christmas story. Joseph is pictured as an elderly man (probably asleep). Mother and child both staring at one another with clear joy. The "Kings" have no earthly gifts or worldly crowns. The clear suggestion is that the only gift we can offer Christ is ourselves and our adoration. It is also suggested that Bottecelli , was hugely impacted by the revolutionary preacher Girolamo Savonarola. He had encouraged people to a life of holiness which required them to dedicate themselves to Christ and remove all earthly trappings. For the artist this meant no longer painting the pagan images he had previously done for commissions. For others it meant giving up their jewellery. Much of this stuff ended up been burnt on huge fires in the town centre. This is the where the phrase "Bonfire of the Vanities" originates.
The very top of the painting has a latin inscription in Greek which reads: "This picture, at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, I Alessandro, in the half-time after the time, painted, according to the eleventh [chapter] of Saint John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, during the release of the devil for three-and-a-half years; then he shall be bound in the twelfth [chapter] and we shall see [him buried] as in this picture" The legend is that this inscription was actually hidden under the frame as this was an obvious link to the teaching of the now disgraced and now executed Savonarola. Below that is a representation of heaven which is done in gold leaf (a technique he would have learnt when he was a goldsmith). The angels and all dancing with joy and they hold crowns and olive branches. Below the nativity scene there are 3 angels that are embracing humans. It suggests that the birth of Christ bridges heaven and earth, man and God. This is further evidenced by the images of demons being killed by their own weapons.
Significantly, Christ is seen reclined on a cloth that is reminiscent of a shroud and the stable is in a cave which is suggestive of a burial tomb. All of this prophicises his death.
So as I continue to watch lots of rubbish on the box and remain committed to eating my way through a dozen turkey sandwiches, this treasure of a programme not only educated me about the Italian Renaissance, it also allowed me reflect once more on the amazing significance of the birth of Christ.