The Holy Night by Carl Heinrich Bloch

The Holy Night

This painting of the nativity shows the shepherds worshipping the baby Christ.  Luke writes, “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”1

Through the open doorway on the right-hand side of the painting, the star that appeared to herald Jesus’ birth is visible.  The shepherds stand below that star and the open sky, reminding viewers that they came because angels from those heavens appeared to them.  “Holding his sheep near his side, the youngest shepherd respectfully removes his hat while the older herdsman shades his eyes from the emanating light.”2

The painting is lit partially from the small oil lamp that Joseph holds, but mostly from the light emanating from the baby Jesus.  The illumination around Him represents that He is the light of the world and that He is holy.  Joseph and the shepherds look at the baby, but Mary looks out of the canvas directly at the viewer, “pulling back the cloth that covers Him, to show us her newborn child.”3

“The image of the adoration of the shepherds first became part of the artistic canon as a result of the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi.  It was he who taught that the poor were the favored ones, for the lowly shepherds were those to whom the angel first appeared and were privileged to be the first to see and adore the Christ child.”4

Video: Shepherds Learn of the Birth of Christ,

Video: Bible Video Actors Share Their Thoughts on Christmas Nativity

Further reading: “A Bright Shining Star”

  1. Luke 2:15-16
  2. Dawn C. Pheysey and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, The Master’s Hand: the Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010) 67
  3. Dawn C. Pheysey and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, The Master’s Hand: the Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010) 67
  4. Dawn C. Pheysey and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, The Master’s Hand: the Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010) 67