There are millions of images ideal to celebrate Christmas, but paintings depicting the Nativity of Christ are definitely among the best ones since they show a miraculous event seen through the eyes of an artist. The image illustrating this post shows for example Fra Bartolomeo's interpretation of the Nativity (1504-07).
Bartolomeo Domenico del Fattorino - nicknamed Baccio della Porta - was born in 1473 and was active in Florence in the first years of the 16th century. He abandoned his artistic career for a few years when he joined the order of ardent Dominican reformer Savonarola, as Fra (Friar) Bartolomeo (or Bartolommeo) in 1500, but returned to painting in 1504, injecting in his works a sublime spirituality. He mainly painted religious subjects, working in the convent of San Marco in Florence and became one of the four most important artists of the Italian High Renaissance together with Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael (he was Florence's most important painter until his death in 1517).
At the moment Fra Bartolomeo is being celebrated at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam through the exhibition "The Divine Renaissance" (until 15th January 2017). The exhibition is a particularly important event since this is the first time that paintings by Fra Bartolomeo were reunited with preparatory drawings (the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen owns the world's largest and finest collection of Bartolomeo's drawings).
His sketches show figures in various poses: Fra Bartolomeo made use of a life-size mannequin (a wooden doll with removable parts and movable joints) and also employed wax and clay models of children - for the Christ child or cherubs - and individual limbs. He paid particular attention to the drapery of the robes of his characters and draped fabric over the mannequins to study as closely as possible the play of light on the drapery. His passion for these details is clear also in the fabrics of the robes of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph in this Nativity scene. Merry Christmas to all readers!