Monday, 18 December 2017

Monday 18th December: Arrival at Bethlehem

Here we are then, just a week from the big day! My cold is on the wane so I am slathering on 'Happinose' (a sort of menthol paraffin wax with geranium oil in it, that softens sore skin and clears your nose, I can't recommend it enough) and swigging back cough syrup as we crack on with the last few bits.  I have done my Christmas shopping so am now concentrating on knitting Mr Walker a scarf and getting to the end of Blogvent.  Onwards!

Arrival at Bethlehem (1897) Luc-Olivier Merson
We are pretty much past all that annunciating stuff now and we have made it to Bethlehem which is rather full.  I've been in a few nativity plays in my time and I have to admit the most disappointing role I ever had was 'Inn Keeper'.  I wasn't even the nice Inn Keeper who let them stay in the shed.  I was a rubbish one who said 'There is no room here' while trying not to knock over the precarious set.  I had to wear an ugly kaftan thing too.  Anyway, enough of my acting career, today's image is that moment when the holy couple turn up and try and find somewhere to stay.  I have a few problems with this painting...

Let's start with Mary.  I'll start with the positives.  Nice halo.  Right, now on with what is wrong - why is the Mother Of Our Lord Jesus Christ sat on the floor?! Where is her donkey? I thought for a moment this might be her donkey...

...but that is obviously a Great Dane or something.  As far as I know, Mary and Joseph did not travel all the way from Nazereth to Bethlehem on the back of Scooby Doo.  Oh and going back to Mary, I noticed a little something missing...

December 2005
That is what a massively pregnant lady looks like.  That's me, on my due date, with eight pound of blonde baby on board.  No amount of careful draping of cloaks is hiding that, but Mary is definitely not carrying a baby in any visible way.  That's holy pregnancies for you, far more comfortable than conventional, that's for sure. Mind you, I didn't have to sit in the dust outside a pub (if I had, I probably would not have been able to get up), so it's all swings and roundabouts.

Annunciation (1908)
Luc-Olivier Merson (1846-1920) was an academic painter in France who seems to have followed the traditional path of religious art.  I like his annunciation, with a roof-top angel doing her annunciating by a chimney.  That makes a nice change.  Merson's work became largely forgotten because, as you can see, when his fellow countrymen were going all avante-garde in the face of a new century, he was still producing old fashioned, if beautiful paintings.  He also designed stamps and currency, so he was not short of work.  

Angel's Greeting (1890)
The Arrival at Bethlehem is a very odd picture from an artist who produced such beautiful and accomplished works.  The sandy desolation of the street gives the impression of the lack of welcome they were being offered and Mary's dejected state shows her vulnerability but I am not convinced by the fact that she is sat on the ground.  Where's her donkey?  The donkey is key!  There is even a song about him, and that's how the donkey got the cross on his back.  It is a mystery that will endure. Also, I understand this is over a hundred years ago and pregnant women were not seen as aesthetically pleasing as we consider them now, but really Merson's Mary is either carrying so low that it is out of frame or Jesus was an extremely small baby.  Either way, that is not a pregnant enough Virgin for my liking.  That's not a phrase I get to say very often...

See you tomorrow...


  1. Doesn't look very busy.
    Regarding bumpless Mary. No human endeavour required for conception so maybe same for birth.
    With you 100% on the donkey.

    1. Would be awfully convenient not to have to buy pairs of massive leggings and wrestle with tights that don't go up high enough. I can see further benefits of immaculate conception...

      Thanks for your comments :)

  2. Oh, what a giggle I got from this. Mary in the Dirt.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx