Cardinal Vincent Nichols offers his reflections on this painting by Dutch artist Geertgen tot Sint Jans titled 'The Nativity at Night'.
At the beginning of Advent we have a great sense of anticipation, we are waiting and watching, praying and reflecting. It is good to be reminded at the start of this year’s season of precisely why we are doing these things – the journeying within our hearts, within our homes and within our churches. Journeying to the destination that is the Christ-child.
So, this remarkable painting, right here in the National Gallery, in the centre of London, helps to stop us in our Advent tracks.
The Dutch artist, Geertgen tot Sint Jans which means ‘little Gerard of Saint John’, pulls at our heartstrings with this tender scene of absolute contemplation.
It’s as if the painting has frozen in time to take stock of this miracle in the darkness of the night. This is a believer’s Nativity, whose palette is prayer. It is a mystic attempt to imagine that unique holy night.
‘The Nativity at Night’ by Dutch artist, Geertgen tot Sint Jans which means ‘Little Gerard of Saint John’, is a tender scene in which the darkness is illuminated by Jesus in the manger: the golden glow around his body lights up an array of adoring angels, each with individual hand gestures as if they’re all marvelling at different insights that have aroused their senses. It is a believer’s Nativity, whose palette is prayer. It is a mystic attempt to imagine that unique holy night.
Useful Readers’ Notes can be downloaded here to accompany the Cardinal’s film and encourage further engagement.
Visit the official website for the National Gallery, London.