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Addison Bross Professor Emeritus Lehigh Univirsity - Review

Addison Bross This painting arouses for me some deep pondering, Marta.

Something that strikes me offhand: The dove (traditional symbol of the Holy Spirit) is less passive than in most representations, where it simply hovers above the figure of Mary. Here to dove seems to be watchful, on guard, actively present in the birth process. More importantly, the birth in Marta’s painting focuses on the birth-process itself, rather than the aftermath of it, as in most nativity scenes. Actually I don’t know of a nativity painting in which the process itself is taking place, which is what’s happening here. The weeping eyes: Though the birth is almost always shown as a joyous occasion, some passages in scripture acknowledge the sorrow and suffering and severe conflict (conflict of a political type, especially) that is to come. I’m thinking particularly of Simeon’s prediction when the newborn Jesus is presented at the temple: This child will be the occasion for the rise and the fall of many in Israel (a repetition, by the way, of part of Mary’s song called “The Magnificat,” where she predicts that “the poor will be fed with good things and the rich and powerful sent empty away [approximate quote from memory]”). Also, Simeon’s warning to Mary: “And a sword will pierce our heart.“