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Nativity Paintings from around the World

By December 28, 2016Uncategorized

Christians often depict Jesus as coming into their own culture, in their present time. The Italians, whose visual language was predominant during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, featured an Italian Jesus in Renaissance times, and they did it so often and so well that when you think “Nativity,” you probably think of the church art from that age and country—not because it offers the most legitimate representations (they are no more “accurate” than the ones below), but because the Church held particular sway at that time, in that place.

The center of Christianity is no longer in the West. If we were to survey the Christian art being produced today, we would see that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have a much different look. We’d see Mary dressed in a sari or a hanbok; we’d see Jesus wrapped in buffalo skin, or silk. We’d see lizards and kangaroos.

Historical accuracy is not the point of nativity paintings. The purpose is to represent Jesus as one of the people, and relevant to life today.

Below are nineteen contextualizations of the Nativity painted within the last century. Each work brings Jesus into the scene of the artist.

(Edited from https://thejesusquestion.org/2011/12/25/nativity-paintings-from-around-the-world/)

USA:

"Nativity" by James B. Janknegt

James B. Janknegt, Nativity, 1995. Oil on canvas, 57 x 82 cm.

Source.

Crow Nation (Montana-based tribe):

Native American Nativity

John Guiliani, Mary Gives Birth to Jesus, 1999. From The Crow Series.

Source.

Guatemala:

Guatemalan Nativity

John Giuliani, Guatemalan Nativity, 1990s.

Source.

Nicaragua:

Nicaraguan Nativity

Leoncio Saenz, Nacimiento (Nativity), 1983. The banner reads: “I come to tell them that in Nicaragua the new man has been born.”

Source.

England:

Nativity by Dinah Roe Kendall

Dinah Roe Kendall, The Shepherds Went to See the Baby, 1998.

Source.

India:

Nativity by Solomon Raj

P. Solomon Raj, Nativity, 1980s. Batik.

Source. (see also another version)

China:

Chinese nativity

He Qi, Nativity, 1998. Ink and gouache on rice paper.

Source.

Tibet:

Tibetan nativity

A thangka (sacred wall hanging) given by H.H. the Dalai Lama to Fr. Laurence Freeman and the World Community for Christian Meditation in 1998.

Source.

Korea:

Korean nativity

Woonbo Kim Ki-chang, The Birth of Jesus Christ, 1952-53. Ink and color on silk, 76 x 63 cm.

Source.

Japan:

Japanese nativity

Sadao Watanabe, Nativity, 1960s? Stencil print on momigami paper, 58 x 78 cm.

Source. (see two other nativities by Watanabe here and here)

Thailand:

Thai nativity

Sawai Chinnawong, Nativity, 2004. Acrylic on canvas, 32 x 37 in.

Source. (see another Nativity painting by the same artist)

Malaysia:

Malaysian nativity

Hanna Varghese, God Is With Us, 2006. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 in.

Source.

Indonesia:

Indonesian nativity

Erland Sibuea, Nativity, 2008.  Acrylic on canvas, 31 x 23.6 cm.

Source.

Philippines:

Filippino nativity

Kristoffer Ardena, The Meaning of Christmas, 1995. Oil on canvas, 62 x 46 cm.

Source.

Uganda:

African nativity

Francis Musango, Christ in the Manger, n.d. Oil painting.

Source.

Cameroon:

African nativity

Fr. Engelbert Mveng, Nativity, early 1990s. Central scene from church mural. Holy Angels Church, Aurora, Illinois.

Source. (see the full mural)

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

African nativity

Joseph Mulamba-Mandangi, Nativity, 2001. Peinture grattée, 70 x 50 cm.

Source.

Australia (Aboriginal):

Australian nativity

Greg Weatherby, Dreamtime Birth, 1990s? 51 x 64 cm.

Source.

Tahiti:

Nativity by Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, Baby (The Nativity), 1896. Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Source. (see also Gauguin’s other Nativity painting, Te Tamari No Atua)

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