image Census at Bethlehem, Peter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Census at Bethlehem

Seen from above, the snow-covered village stretches on the one side to a ruined castle and on the other, beyond the pond, as far as the church. People are going about their daily tasks: sweeping the snow, building a cabin, crossing the pond on foot next to a ferry-boat caught in the ice, gathering around a fire. The children are playing, throwing snowballs, skating, spinning their tops, sledging. In the right hand foreground, a man with a large carpenter’s saw is leading an ox and an ass, the latter bearing a women wrapped tightly in an ample blue mantle. Without attracting attention, they pick their way between the carts of beer barrels and bales. These are Joseph and Mary, who have come to Bethlehem to be enrolled in the universal census ordered by Emperor Augustus. The Gospel episode is associated with the payment of tax. And indeed to the left, the crowd is pressing in front of the tax-gatherer’s office, installed at the window of the inn, whilst in front of the door, a pig is being killed. – Web Gallery of Art

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