Tuesday, 24 December 2013
This two-tier Nativity is by Tintoretto and hangs in the upper room of the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, a Supreme Work of the Human Spirit which I had the pleasure of revisiting in the autumn. Apart from its unusual structure, the Nativity is notable for the presence of a (rather dowdy) peacock among the animals - symbolic, of course - and for the gesture with which Mary unveils the baby Jesus, a gesture that hints both at the uncovering of the consecrated wine during Mass, and at the winding sheet that will wrap His body in due course. The fate of Jesus is also suggested clearly enough by the cross-shaped beams of the broken roof above him. But the painting is essentially 'about' the light - the glorious transforming light - that floods in on the familiar scene, the homely and astonishing miracle.