William Blake, English, 1757 - 1827
Everything in this small painting emphasizes the miraculous nature of the birth of Jesus. Joseph supports a swooning Mary, while Jesus springs forth from her womb and hovers above the manger. He is received by Mary's cousin, Saint Elizabeth, whose own child, John the Baptist, rests in her lap. A cross glows in the window as if reflected in the light of the star of Bethlehem. The infant Jesus' outstretched arms prefigure his Crucifixion. This painting is one of a series of biblical illustrations that Blake made for Thomas Butts, a clerk in the War Office Department of Mustering and an important supporter of Blake's art.
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