Art and Christmas: a Never Ending Love Story
Out of all the hundreds of holidays there are across the globe, Christmas remains the most popular to date. It is a holiday defined by the Arts, more so visual and musical. Over the years we have seen an interesting evolution of the iconographic figures surrounding the holiday. For example, in today’s modern culture Mariah Carey has quickly risen to becoming one of these figures with her ‘All I want for Christmas’, which I’m sure is already on your Christmas playlist.
However, what makes Christmas so unique from other holidays is that religious figures continue to consolidate the festive atmosphere. In this article we will explore the traditional representation of Christmas in Art (with a focus on the Renaissance era), how it has evolved, and how you can use Art to further amplify the Christmas spirit.
Christmas in Art History
The Renaissance era spanned from the 13th c. to the 16th c. and is popularly regarded as the most superior Art movements of Western culture. This is because this period marked a cultural, spiritual, and economic rebirth as the period marked the European transition to modernity from the Middle Ages. The Renaissance era also gifted the likes of Leonardo de Vinci, Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, and many more.
Now, when a person views Art from the Renaissance period it is very clearly dominated by religious iconography such as nativity scenes and all sorts of religious figures. This is because Italy was at the centre of the artistic movement and the presence of Christianity was very strong. You see, art was not accessible to any and everybody. So only either upper class members of society and the church could fund and commission Artists to create. Though, this is not to say that these painters themselves were not religious or did not believe. So, the Art that these painters created reflected religious spirituality instead of promoting human individuality.
Humanism was a growing philosophy which encouraged Europeans to question the role of the catholic church during the Renaissance. This resulted in the reformation and counter reformation movements (the split of the catholic church and birth of Protestantism) to promote and strengthen their versions of Christianity and the visual Arts were the perfect tool to do so.
The Mystical Nativity by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1500
Madonna del cardellino by Raphael, c. 1507
A phenomenal example of this is Sandro Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity. This is just one of many paintings depicting the birth of Jesus Christ which we popularly known and celebrate as Christmas today. The painting shows the most significant figures of the religious day in the barn, the Virgin Mary standing over her son, baby Jesus, and the 3 Magi who followed the North star bearing gifts.
Christmas in modern art
Now, this painting is very dated in terms of style and topic, and it seems as though in Visual Art we have completely detached ourselves from this very traditional representation of Christmas. Today Santa Clause seems to be the staple figure. However, the colours we recognise and associate with Christmas are rooted in Christianity and is visible in this very painting.
The 3 colours of Christmas are Red, Gold, and Green and each carries religious connotations. Red symbolises the blood of Jesus and can be seen on the Virgin Mary and the 3 Magi. Gold symbolizes royalty and gifts from the Magi and this colour can be seen in the on the roof of the barn. Green is symbolic of eternal life and is the dominant colour in this painting. So even though we’ve seemed to shift away from the more traditional and religious forms of representation as the likes of Santa Clause begins to dominate the iconography of Christmas, the traditional colours still live on.
|Forest by Ekaterina Gromova||Sandstorm/Free by Andrea Ehret|
Nowadays, the creation of religious paintings centred on nativity scenes, and more are not so popular. Incorporating Christmas paintings for the season can be a difficult task because firstly Renaissance paintings are priceless and not for sale. So how can you incorporate paintings into Christmas festivities?
|Over Again by Olga Chajmova Holcova||Heart Chain by Magdaléna Ševčík|
The key is in the colours. As I already mentioned, Red, Green, and Gold are staples of the season. Seeing these colours together immediately conjure up the spirit of the season. So, finding paintings, whether abstract or bohemian, which dominantly focus on these will be key to elevating the Christmas spirit in your homes whilst giving it a very modern and stylish touch. For those of you who are more religious, it’s as simple as adding the north star or an angel to the top of your tree.
If you want to know, even more, check our more detailed guide on how to buy art for yourself and for your office. We are always here to help you to find the right artwork, you can book an appointment with us, and remember, enjoy yourself while in the process!
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