Andrei Rublev's The Nativity
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
The full title of Andrei Rublev's icon is The Nativity in the Flesh of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; for all that, the poor infant Savior is given rather short shrift. He is placed at the center of the image, within a womb-like grotto like the one in Bethlehem traditionally associated with his birth. Sharp, angular rocks rise above it to symbolize the harshness of the world into which he is born. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a tomblike manger as if to foreshadow his grave clothes and his future tomb. His very littleness seems to speak of the human frailty he was born to embrace. The lowly workaday . . .
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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