Uncategorized Blazes

Art Commentary: Star of Bethlehem by Edward Burn–Jones

Edward Burne-Jones Star of Bethlehem
Star of Bethlehem by Edward Burn–Jones (1855 – 1890)

I really like this watercolor painting, which was based on the artist’s design for a tapestry. I’m immediately drawn to the painting because it has a kind of Tolkienesque and Elvish quality – – perhaps the image informed the imagination of JRR Tolkien as he created the world of Middle earth. The warm green and brown woodland hues are unique for paintings of the Epiphany.

Overall, it has an ethereal yet natural, earthy feel. I think it conveys the Epiphany very well – – the Lord descended to earth and took matter, flesh, human nature to himself, inseparably and forever. The Christ Child has brought the star down to us. He is the star, he is the Light, the source of the star the angel holds, and he is the source of the angel. Like most depictions of the Epiphany, Jesus sits on the throne of his simple yet stately and majestic mother’s lap. Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom displays him. Joseph is silently present in the background. There is a crown laid down near the feet of Jesus, symbolizing the Magi’s recognition that they are in the presence of the king of all kings. The Child’s appearance is easily distinguished from the other characters, he is dark, small, bare. He has made himself known to the richly clothed Magi who have come to adore him, he, the one who has come to make all things new.

Unmistakably present in the painting is the theme of Resurrection, a new heavens and a new earth. May we think of the forest scene as a garden? The new Eve presents the new Adam, the Redeemer of the Universe. There are flowers growing at his feet signaling the beginning of spring, the eternal and everlasting spring. And yet, the Child looks cold, as he must’ve been in the manger. To identify with our condition (except for sin), he has made himself poor and needy, born into a humble environment. Let us give the warmth of our love to the one who has loved us first and come to warm us, and regenerate us, with the brilliance of his love, reflected in the star.

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