I wanted to share this painting, one I'd never seen before yesterday when I found it in the pages of the most recent copy of Lay Witness magazine. It is by Italian artist Federico Barocci (1535-1612). Barocci was stricken with an incurable illness as a young man and was no longer able to paint. He prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and though not cured, he recovered enough to resume his painting. In gratitude, he painted one religious masterpiece after another, many depicting Mary as a maiden of incomparable beauty. In 1597 he painted this one called "The Nativity," which hangs in a museum in Madrid.
I love the way Mother and Child are looking into each other's eyes here. Also, note that the stable has no natural source of light--so all the light in this image flows forth from the face of the Christ Child, illuminating his Mother and even the face of the cow. He is indeed the Light of the World! Joseph, the proud father, can be seen in the background, opening the door to let in the shepherds. This is not your typical Nativity scene, with the Holy Family posed in the usual tableau. This portrayal is more realistic, and when you look at it, you can almost imagine what it really must have been like in that stable. I just think this is the most beautiful Nativity scene.
Here's wishing you a blessed and happy Christmas, and may the joy of Christmas be with you not only today, but throughout the coming year, too!