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    Hans Baldung, Nativity, 1520

    The Oxen

    By Thomas Hardy

    December 11, 2022
    • V. Lyn Powell

      What an interesting interpretation of the Nativity by Hans Baldung Grien. My art history courses in Northern Renaissance painting focused mostly on the Flemish artists, so I missed seeing this one from the German artist. At first glance I thought the figure of Joseph was another animal like the ox, so I had to zoom in to see the obscured face of Joseph. I do think the artist intended a visual ambiguity there, though I have no idea why. On the other hand, the Virgin Mary looks like a marble sculpture. This is a fascinating work.

    Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
    “Now they are all on their knees,”
    An elder said as we sat in a flock
    By the embers in hearthside ease.

    We pictured the meek mild creatures where
    They dwelt in their strawy pen,
    Nor did it occur to one of us there
    To doubt they were kneeling then.

    So fair a fancy few would weave
    In these years! Yet, I feel,
    If someone said on Christmas Eve,
    “Come; see the oxen kneel,

    “In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
    Our childhood used to know,”
    I should go with him in the gloom,
    Hoping it might be so.

    First published in The Times of London on Christmas Eve, 1915

    Hans Baldung, Nativity, 1520

    Hans Baldung, Nativity, 1520

    Contributed By

    Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) was an English novelist and poet.

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