Census at Bethlehem

By Pieter Brueghel the Elder – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15451995

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

Google Arts and Culture Census at Bethlehem  

Census at Bethlehem (Blog) by Gerry (See also this post)

“In the centre of the painting are two large wooden O’s made by the wheels of some hay wagons. For Bruegel and his viewers, the circle was a symbol of eternity and represented the continuing cycle of life in death and birth. It is a magnificent painting, depicting a world filled with suffering and displacement, but which has redemption at its heart.”

Private Life of a Masterpiece is a BBC arts documentary series that tells the stories behind great works of art reaching from the Renaissance to modern art. Episode 24: The Census at Bethlehem http://www.infocobuild.com/books-and-films/art/PrivateLifeMasterpiece/episode-24.html

No Room Essay by Jim Forest

“It’s tempting to see in this a two-tiered Christmas story, in which Jesus is identified with the weak, the powerless, the refugee — and we, the comfortable, observe it from a distance and are judged by how we “feel” about it. But the mystery of the incarnation involves us all: Christ is searching for lodgings in all of us, and because of this we are united in Christ with the weak, the powerless, the refugee.”


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