Mystical Nativity: Group work with art, presented by Erika Brown

 

Mystical Nativity painted by Sandro Botticelli

You are invited to work with this painting of the Nativity in light of your experience of the Logopraxis process. Below is a description of some details about the painting. There is far more to learn and theorize about this work of art, but this is an opportunity to let your knowledge of the Logopraxis process lead your interpretation, rather than the art critics. Any comments below are welcome, it is hoped we can build a conversation about the process around this piece of art.

Description

This is a unique picture for the Renaissance, as it is not a usual rendition of the Nativity. It has typical components, drawn from the story in Matthew and Luke: Mary, Jesus, Joseph, ass, ox. Wisemen are on the left of the painting, shepherds on the right. Angels are very present.

The unusual is this: Botticelli also included elements of Revelation, or the Second Coming. It is said that the artist felt that he was living during the Second Coming. He says in the inscription at the top of the painting: ​​“I Sandro painted this picture at the end of the year 1500 in the troubles in Italy in the half time after the time according to the 11th chapter of St. John in the second woe of the Apocalypse in the loosing of the devil for three and a half years. Then he will be chained in the 12th chapter and we shall see him trodden down as in this picture.”​ ​Look for the devils (7) in the very lowest part of the painting. Putting these two pieces of the Word together in a painting would have been highly unusual.

Another unusual aspect of this Nativity rendition is its very well developed story line above the actual scene of the holy family. ​It cannot be read with the naked eye, but the scrolls that the angels above the stable and just under the gold dome are holding have written on them the words “ Twelve Privileges of Mary”. These are all qualities of Mary that the church held important at that time. You can look those up if you want. Some research I did indicated that the 12 privileges were qualities of Mary that are seen as the 12 stars on the head of what we call the Woman Clothed with the Sun. My brief research cannot confirm this information.

These angels circling in the air hold olive branches, which are attached to crowns and wear white, green and red.

Look also at the 3 angels in the foreground. The scripture that is in the hands of these angels reads “​peace on earth to men of goodwill”​ .

The link below will take you to a copy of the painting which you can enlarge and move around to see smaller pieces. It may assist you in scrutinizing detail and coming up with your read of this piece.

https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/sandro-botticelli-mystic-nativity

How can this painting of the Nativity and the Second Coming reflect our work?

I look forward to what is offered.

 

 

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Ian Keal
Ian Keal
1 month ago

I keep revisiting the 12 angels, as it were dancing in a circle just below the golden opening in the clouds. There are 6 vines hanging through the opening and 10 crowns aparently floating, although one seems to be hanging from the base of one of the vines, and one is almost obscured inbetween the 2 angels in red & white on the right hand side. Lots of correspondences here. 10 commandments. 6 days of creation. 3 different colored clothes, celestial, spiritual & natural, of the angels above, and red (love) white (wisdom) and green (use) apparel for the angels… Read more »

Gray Glenn
Gray Glenn
1 month ago

I wanted to find a way to view the lower band of the painting: the “cute” hiding devils below the struggle of angels with the unwinged. I didn’t succeed. I don’t understand who (or what) the unwinged are, but felt an identity with them. In the process I discover that my struggle is not with the devils, but is actually with the angels who are preventing my headlong pitch to hell. Are they wrestling or embracing? Do the unwinged figures represent what wants to approach the new born Jesus, but as yet is not prepared? I couldn’t find out the words on… Read more »

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
Reply to  Gray Glenn
29 days ago

The three pairs at the bottom of the picture remind me of the varying states of turmoil and peace found in the process of spiritual temptation, when the presence of angels is holding me and yet I can feel the closeness of the devils within myself. At one time the temptation is resolved, and at another the struggle continues and brings pain.

Gray Glenn
Gray Glenn
1 month ago

I wanted to find a way to view the lower band of the painting: the “cute” hiding devils below the struggle of angels with the unwinged. I didn’t succeed. I don’t understand who (or what) the unwinged are, but felt an identity with them. In the process I discover that my struggle is not with the devils, but is actually with the angels who are preventing my headlong pitch to hell.

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
1 month ago

What of the baby? What is that form representing, what is it telling me? I realise that I never think of or relate myself to Jesus as a baby, but as the Divine Human. So I’m thinking that the Baby Jesus is like a germinating seed, a representation of qualities and states; whereas the Divine Human is the Incarnation of the Lord God Jehovah. This is Christmas, and the time of remembrance and celebration of the birth of the Divine Truth and its Good into this world. The baby is something born into us, and which can grow from us; it… Read more »

Joe Vandermeer
Joe Vandermeer
1 month ago

Thanks Erika, it’s such a lovely way to explore inner life using this rich symbolic painting as a stimulus. The longer I ponder it the more begins to stand out, but here are a few aspects of it. It has some peculiar components to it. It mentions Revelation, a book that speaks of the obstacles to be removed in me in order for me to arrive at a marriage in me of good and truth (my becoming a ‘church’). So the birth of the Lord, my becoming aware of a way to Work so as to come to live a… Read more »

Erika Brown
Erika Brown
Reply to  Joe Vandermeer
1 month ago

So much to think about! The lesson becomes larger with each person’s sharing. The angel/soul pair low to high you brought up is really hitting me.

Joe Vandermeer
Joe Vandermeer
Reply to  Erika Brown
1 month ago

Redemption from the hells is possible only by the Lord combining (marrying) his kingly function (Divine Truth, I.e. the three magi whose origin is in the east, the place of the Lord), with His priestly function (Divine Good, characterised by innocence which is the willingness to be led by that good, as the shepherds who lead the flock of willing affections). The angel who leads the kings (truth) is dressed in the red of Divine Love to awaken the slumbering awareness of Joseph in me, and the angel who leads the shepherds (good) is dressed in the white of Divine… Read more »

Erika Brown
Erika Brown
1 month ago

I’m struck by how much Mary is part of this picture. The Mary, the human that is an entry point for the Divine is at the center. This resonates with what I experience in LP. When I work with the Word, and the humanness in me emerges, at these touch points is where the Lord is found. But the angels dancing above the nativity hold ribbons that proclaim the virtues of Mary. To me this speaks of a different level of the mind, and the affections that live at these other levels. It is by the affections that the Lord… Read more »

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
Reply to  Erika Brown
1 month ago

yes I was wondering about Mary too – she is the biggest figure and as you said is exactly in the centre. A thought came in response to your observation about her humanness and the affections, and I’m wondering about the description of levels in the painting which are drawn into a focus with Mary, and how the different levels of affection available to us are part of the path to the personal birth of Innocence, and the vital part that humanness plays.

Erika Brown
Erika Brown
Reply to  Liz Coggins
1 month ago

In some way, the entire painting is dominated by her presence. Makes me think about what I am studying right now – The Divine Human, that being our perception of the Lord in our lives. I might say that this painting is portraying the human experience of the Divine Human, as Mary aids us in that process.

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
Reply to  Erika Brown
1 month ago

So is the humanness (Mary) a solidity into which all the rest can flow; the Divine Proceeding being in a continual state of fluidity and formlessness, while the humanness gives a place into which Life may rest and then be transformed and returned to the Source. Perhaps the figure of Mary, in the very centre, is (amongst other things) like a fulcrum or a point of mass that is both an anchor and yet also an doorway, as you say. Perhaps without the form that the humanness provides all the unformed emanations and potentials from the Lord flowing through the… Read more »

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
1 month ago

Each time I reflect on the painting, I must admit that the feeling of beauty and joy that emanates from it is so considerable that it’s almost sufficient, even without searching deeper. The whole painting is bursting with life – the movement, sense of celebration, vibrant and harmonious colour, the struggle, and the adoration and wonder are all an invitation to enter the inner story. As an initial and broad observation, the painting speaks to me of the integrating and joyous states that are brought into a person when the efforts of Work are consolidated, and in a landscape that offers… Read more »

Erika Brown
Erika Brown
Reply to  Sarah Walker
1 month ago

This illuminates for me the idea of levels that the painting illustrates visually.

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
Reply to  Sarah Walker
1 month ago

Marry Christmas to you too Sarah perfect Wording

Joe Vandermeer
Joe Vandermeer
Reply to  Liz Coggins
1 month ago

Ditto, I like the combination of the meaning within Christmas, and relating it to “marry” as well as Mary as well as what makes our spirit merry. Perfect. Have a wonderful and meaningful time whoever you are spending it with.

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
1 month ago

Thank you Erika; a really great focus

Erika Brown
Erika Brown
Reply to  Liz Coggins
1 month ago

I was consumed by a message to share it. You are welcome.