And on the third day after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most blessed Mary went forth out of the cave, and entering
a stable, placed the child in the stall, and the ox and the ass adored Him. Then was fulfilled that which was said by Isaiah
the prophet, saying: The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.
The very animals, therefore, the ox and the ass, having Him in their midst, incessantly adored Him. Then was fulfilled that which
was said by Abacuc the prophet, saying: Between two animals thou art made manifest.
The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, XIV
A prototype for centuries of subsequent paintings …
a humble shed set into rock,
Joseph in his usual thoughtful attitude, sitting outside the grotto,
Mary reclines on a red cushion, gazing toward
the Christ child who is watched over by
an ox and ass
two of the oldest symbols of nativity art, the ox and donkey recognize Jesus
as their master and have come to adore him, just as the shepherds and kings
Duccio di Buoninsegna
The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel
Nativité entourée des prophètes Isaïe et Ézéchiel
Natividad con los Profetas Isaías y Ezequiel
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
The joy of the angels,
the meditative serenity of Joseph,
the gaze of Mary and the child
the adoration of the ass and the ox towards the newborn child …
Giotto di Bondone
Scenes from the Life of Christ: 1. Nativity: Birth of Christ
Cycle de la Vie du Christ: 1. Nativité: Naissance de Jésus
Escenas de la vida de Cristo: 1. Natividad: Nacimiento de Jesús
Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
The Renaissance then brought a succession of masterly religious paintings,
however, it is essential elements:
the infant Jesus is naked, rather than swaddled, resting on the ground in front
of the Virgin Mary.
Joseph bearded with his walking stick
the ox and ass
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
By 1500, Sandro Botticelli had already painted several conventional nativity scenes.
Interestingly the scene has few personages, unlike some later ones.
The ass is particularly lovely ...
Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia
Great tenderness and reverence
the radiance of the baby
a lovely image full of emotion and charm:
the ox and the ass peering into the crib
Geertgen tot Sint Jans
Nativity at Night
Nativité de nuit
Natividad de noche
The National Gallery, London
A thoroughly modern Nativity in which the birth of Jesus takes place in a French town ...
the shepherd seen from behind is a tribute to Gauguin by quoting the famous painting
“Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin";
the figure at the window, behind the woman, is a self-portrait;
it even seems that the Saint Joseph is a portrait of Odilon Redon
despite modernity, just behind the Holy Family are
the ox and the ass
Musée des Augustins de Toulouse, Toulouse
This works has some differences with other works on the same theme:
the scene is depicted at dawn, a symbol that makes the birth of Jesus
the light that erases the blackness of darkness,
Joseph holding a candle,
in addition to the figures of the Holy Family,
there are the two midwives Zelemi and Salomé,
three shepherds who appear at the window of the stable
an unusual aspect ... instead of warming the Child Jesus with his breath,
the ox and the ass turn their backs to the scene
Master of Flémalle, Maître de Flémalle, Maestro de Flémalle, Robert Campin
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon
Botticelli here picks up the theme of Matthew and Luke that the birth
of the Christ heralds his mission and his death for the sins of the world.
There are several aspects of this Nativity scene which point forward
to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.
The cave foreshadows the tomb in which Jesus was buried.
The baby lies on a sheet that suggests the burial shroud his body
will be wrapped in a few years later,
and behind him an ox and ass
the ass has a cross on his shoulder
may refer to Christ’s entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week
leading up to his death.
La Nativité mystique
The National Gallery, London
An Nativity unique and extraordinary ...
Joseph supports the Virgin Mary, who appears to have fainted,
Jesus has sprung from her womb, arms outstretched
as if ready for crucifixion;
Mary’s cousin Elisabeth greets the infant, with her own son,
John the Baptist, on her lap
Although that is most unconventional, Blake includes
the traditional ox and ass
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
A Breton village covered with snow,
two women accompany the oxen in this strange and melancholic
Christmas procession that gives an enigmatic air to painting
the nativity of Jesus Christ is represented in a sanctuary
and it seems that the women are going to adore the child
A fascinating mixture of symbols as Gauguin loved them …
Nuit de Noël (La bénédiction des bœufs)
Christmas Night (The Blessing of the Oxen)
Noche de Navidad (La bendición de los bueyes)
Indianapolis Museum of Art
The looks ...
Mary kneeling, hands clasped and eyes lowered towards the Child,
Joseph, his oblique gaze towards the procession
immediately brings us back to the Child, for here the first riders
descend on the scene,
the shepherd's finger shows the viewer where to look
the big eyes of the ass and the ox lead the gaze downwards, to the Child
the Child is resting on his cloak in the shadow of an ancient Roman
sarcophagus which bears the inscription "the urn that covers (conceals)
me shall bring forth a god"
is the manger of the ox and the ass, and is also the crib of Jesus.
Adoration of the Shepherds
Adoration des bergers
Adoración de los pastores
Santa Trinita, Florence
One of the most astounding landscapes in Italian painting,
a dark lake dominated by thegreat owl perched on the roof,
the bright-eyed child, so cozily wrapped in his swaddling-cylinder,
a look of deep adoration of the ass and the ox
the ox horn placed gently, kindly and politely behind the ass's ear …
Pietro di Giovanni d'Ambrogio
Adoration of the Shepherds between Saints Augustin and Galgano
Adoration des bergers entre saints Augustin et Galgano
Adoración de los pastores con san Agustín y san Galgano
Palazzo Corboli Museum. Museo civico archeologico e d'arte sacra palazzo Corboli, Siena
Ox and ass in paintings of the Nativity
Le bœuf et l'âne dans les peintures de la Nativité
El buey y el asno en las pinturas de la Natividad
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