Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Nativity in Trafalgar Square

Strolling this afternoon to Trafalgar Square, I was delighted to see a crib nestling at the foot of nelson's Column. There has been much talk this year in the press of playing down the religious side of Christmas. This, then, was good to see.

I remember reading that the Trafalgar Square crib has been created by a Japanese non-Christian. The artist had an enjoyable time learning about the legends associated with Christmas, and then presented it in a Japanese idiom. Certainly it has the clean, minimalist look of a Japanese home (a tourist behind me said, "What? No straw!"). But it also has something of the renaissance about it. There's a clear hint at Piero Della Francesca's Nativity in the nearby National Gallery, even to the figure pointing to the heavens. Like Piero, the artist has placed the Christ child on the floor (a detail which is only just visible in the above photograph). The Madonna has the poise and tranquility of one of Pisanello's profiles, and the whole scene accomplishes a radiance and peace that is deeply moving.

A lovely detail is the figure of Joseph, lying alongside the child, and watching over him and (below) the three wise men who represent the three racial types of Africa, Asia and India.

1 comment:

Ttony said...

My first thought was "Wot? No shepherds?" But the longer I looked at the second picture, the more I thought that the Japanese artist has managed to make a sermon out of his crib. Joseph, who can't really work out what all of the fuss is about; Mary, who understands all to well and is on her knees in front of her Saviour; and the Kings, who have come in, and who only have the first idea about what is going on, but who know that coming too close too soon isn't going to be a good idea. This really is quite wonderful.