“Holy Night”, Albrecht Altdorfer – overview of the painting

“Holy Night”, Albrecht Altdorfer – overview of the painting
"Holy Night", Albrecht Altdorfer - overview of the painting - 1

  • Posted by Albrecht Altdorfer
  • Museum: Berlin Art Gallery
  • Year: 1511-1513

Overview of the painting :

Holy Night – Albrecht Altdorfer. 1511-1513. Wood. 36.2 x 26 cm.

   The German artist Albrecht Altdorfer, who belonged to the Danube School of Painting, in his work several times addressed the plot of the Nativity of Christ. The painting “Holy Night” literally fascinates with its performance, realism and a kind of halo of romanticism.

   We see a dilapidated building – a crumbled brick masonry exposes bare wooden beams. This building has long turned into ruins, as evidenced by flowers and herbs that managed to prophesy directly on the stones. It was here that the Holy Family found shelter.

   Moonlight snatches Joseph, Mary and the baby from the dark snack of the old building. The full moonlight makes all the contours more explicit, contrasting, which seems to be possible to consider all the details of the landscape. In general, the main merits of Aldorfer are associated primarily with the landscape. Working in a small space (its paintings are very modest in size), the artist, one might say, invented the minimalist writing technique. And in the presented work, we can notice how scrupulously every detail is written – blade of grass, bricks, wooden skeleton. It seems that some mysterious story, a fairy tale, is unfolding before us.

   The figures of people in the picture are written more sketchily and approximately. Maria folded her arms across her chest. Her appearance, like the appearance of Joseph, is depressing, sad and at the same time humble. Almost on the earth itself lies a baby surrounded by three angels. Angels from the picture – both those near Jesus, and those that soar above the pimped building, and one that can be seen in the bright spot of the cloud below the moon: they are all the same and do not have pronounced individual traits. This is quite characteristic of the era in which Altdorfer worked. The canineization of celestial heroes in painting will be a little later.

   However, Aldorfer became a innovator in another – the author boldly uses contrasting color combinations, thereby balancing the composition with light spots: the moon, the yellow-white cloud under the month, the angels in heaven and the baby Jesus himself.

   To the left of the main characters is a barely distinguishable figure of a lamb (or rather a head) and this is a fairly well-known Christian symbol. Insightly, the presence of this animal in the picture can be expressed in the following words: God cares for his flock as an attentive shepherd about sheep. The lamb in the stall is another proof of the great destiny of the just-born baby Jesus.