Nativity with a Torch
Oil on canvas
The Le Nains painted several religious scenes (some now lost) in which the action is set at night and the sole source of illumination—a flame or a fire—is represented within the picture. This new and exciting mode of painting was likely inspired by the works of artists who adopted the style of Caravaggio. In particular, Gerrit van Honthorst, from the Dutch city of Utrecht, created nocturnes—such as his Adoration of the Shepherds of 1622—that bear similarities: the compression of the scene, the overall sense of motion as the onlookers rush to view the Christ Child; the single torch providing light to see the brightly illuminated baby; and the way the Virgin lifts Christ’s blanket.
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