There are many paintings by the big master’s in art that perfectly tell the tale of Christmas. These have remained favourites through the ages, and some are now part of the most valuable paintings around.
Caravaggio Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence (1609)
The absence of literateness in the Renaissance and pre-Renaissance times motivated the Catholic Church as well as the wealthiest merchants to order a large group of painters to tell the tale of Christmas – the origins of Christianity via paintings. Painters and artist were in fierce competition with each other to gain the very generous contracts of the church, which ultimately led to the most stunning art pieces.
The Annunciation – Botticelli – 1489
Sandro Botticelli, the Florentine Renaissance master, was commissioned by Cestello, the Florentine Monastery to paint Gabriel, the archangel as he delivers the news to Virgin Mary that she was chosen to give birth to the son of God. In the Annunciation, her face masterfully illustrating the emotional nature of the message she receives.
Mary and Joseph on the Way to Bethlehem – Hugo van der Goes – 1475
Part of the Portinari Altarpiece the painting by the Flemish painter, Hugo van der Goes, the painting shows Joseph and Mary as they travel to Bethlehem. Mary’s advanced pregnancy is beautifully illustrated as the ageing Joseph carefully guides her down the rocky mountain.
The Census at Bethlehem – Pieter Bruegel the Elder – 1566
Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicts Joseph and Mary on their way to register for the census, the Romans ordered, which is set in a snowy, winter scene. Pieter Bruegel was known for his tendency to paint biblical event in a local and contemporary setting, which The Census at Bethlehem perfectly illustrates.
Dream of Joseph – Rembrandt – 1645
The Flemish painter, Rembrandt, depicts Christ’s earthly father, as he agrees to marry Mary, once he discovers she is pregnant. According to Matthew’s gospel, God sends Joseph an explanation with an angel who visits him in a dream to instruct him to name the baby Jesus, while he also explains the divine conception.
Nativity with St Lawrence and St Francis – Caravaggio – 1609
Sadly, the Nativity with St Lawrence and St Francis by Caravaggio was one of the masterpieces stolen in the heist that was the most notorious in history. This invaluable painting was cut from its frame and never found. The original painting is now replaced by a replica of the last large-scale paintings, which shows the Virgin Mary as she gazes at her child and rests. Caravaggio places an unknown youth prominently in the foreground of the painting, one who looks in the direction of the ageing Joseph. All hope is still placed on finding the original one day, stolen from the Oratorio di San Lorenzo in Sicily.