Personal notes of a non-academic:
A hushed and fairly dramatic painting by George de la Tour (1593-1652) entitled: The Newborn. To me, it is definitely a painting that speaks of the reverence that birth inspires, especially the birth of the child we celebrate at Christmas. It also shows the newborn Christ as a source of light which is a pleasing metaphor. On the whole, for me, it is a gentle painting which, I have to say, many Nativity scenes are not. There's no pain evident in this depiction, nothing but quiet joy - the figures are actually relating to one another - they seem to be in a specific place at a specific time. In many Nativity scenes, the figures all appear to be locked into their own thoughts, awkwardly staring off into space. In this painting the adult figures are focused on the child - the light which seems to radiate from the small body makes sure we're focused as well. In my opinion, there aren't many Nativity scenes that are lovely - this is one of them.