Advent offering 21 December

Christmas day is drawing nearer, so for the last few days of this advent calendar, I’ll do what I did last year and focus on images of the nativity. Today’s offering is from Flemish artist Cornelis Massijs, titled Arrival of the Holy Family in Bethlehem. Here, Massijs depicts Bethlehem as a Flemish village – Mary and Joseph are very much in the background, standing next to their ass, as Joseph carries out negotiations with an innkeeper. Meanwhile, life carries on as normal – other figures tending to their everyday business (including a bit of canoodling), giving the newcomers scarcely a glance. Only the brooding clouds and the somewhat eerie light in the sky remind us that the night ahead promises to be quite extraordinary.

Cornelis Massijs, Arrival of the Holy Family in Bethlehem (1543)

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