Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sunday 15th December - Selling Christmas Trees

When I was a little girl, not so very long ago, we always had a real Christmas tree.  I remember going off to the local garden centre and bringing it home, all filled with excitement.  Much like this.  Sort of.

Selling Christmas Trees (1853) David Jacob Jacobsen
This looks a jolly, if frosty, scene, and I love a picture that can be split into many individual moments.  This one draws your eye in and out, from the central group of ladies to the children and the woman stood on her own.  Let's start with her...

She is watching the action on the other side of the canvas, but neatly bookends it, drawing the eye to her, but then back to the other side.  The red stripe climbs her skirt and circles her neck, echoed in the attire of the woman behind her.  She has baskets of food in front of her, which seem like great riches in an otherwise quite frozen scene.  She has a tree behind her and a sack with the artist's name on it.  She seems to be gazing across at this chap...

This chap, possibly Italian, is flogging sculptures from his board balanced on his head.  Let me tell you, there is nothing that a lady likes more than a man with a bit of wood on his head covered in figurines.  He seems to be doing well with the ladies in this little pack.  He is no doubt warming hearts on a chilly day.  His board is full of figures from antiquity.  I can see a winged person but I'm guessing that will be the personification of Victory, rather than an angel.  I'll come back to that.

I did wonder if the woman was looking at these two, whether they might be her kiddiwinks.  The little girl's gesture of her hand over her mouth gives an impression of how cold it is.  Her brother appears to be carrying a bottle, hopefully sloe gin.  That sorts you out on a cold day.  I only just noticed that there is a rope around him and he is towing a tree, which is ingenious as they aren't the easiest things to carry.  Mr Walker had a brief University job working in a well-known DIY centre and one of his jobs was stacking the Christmas trees.  He still goes twitchy when he smells the sap.  One of the many reasons we have a plastic one...

The group of women at the back strike me as being a bit Nativity-ish, especially the woman in the middle with the basket in front of her.  The white headscarf does it for me.  They draw the eye between the two sides, being a focus without being noteworthy.  I wonder if there is any comment about the birth of Jesus being lost in the festival of Christmas?  Surely not this early?  I wonder when people began to complain about that?  If you look at what the picture is about, people are buying their trees and food, and some people are buying 'pagan' statues.  In the centre but almost ignored is the Virgin Mary and child, or in this case, basket of oranges.  Does anyone know any connection between citrus fruit and Jesus?

Now, we have our lovely 6ft plastic tree up at home which the dog insists on running underneath, snapping at the decorations.  We didn't have to drag it home from the market place.  We just dragged it out of the loft.  It's really not the same, is it?

I'm off to have an orange, which I'm hoping isn't sacrilege.  See you tomorrow.


  1. As to when people started grumbling about 'the real meaning of Christmas', I've always understood that the Virgin Mary's post-natal depression was partly caused by the impossibility of getting pine needles out of the carpet.

    1. Nope, it was the bits of straw in all the wrong places.

  2. Well, she should have planned it better and had a summer baby - It's always difficult having a baby around Christmas. Lily's birthday is close enough to Christmas Day to make it all blur into one, but having your birthday on Christmas day must be very difficult. When I was little I was always appalled that Easter was only around 4 months after Christmas - I was convinced that they had crucified a four month old. I naturally assumed that he grew quickly because he was the son of God.


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