We have some pretty spectacular art in our current show, The Christmas Story: Picturing the Birth of Christ in Medieval Manuscripts. But it’s very hard to top this Romanesque limestone relief in the Cathedral of Sainte-Lazare in Autun, France.
It’s my favorite.
The Three Magi are triple-bunked, sleeping with their crowns on, perhaps so they can get an early start. The Angel of the Lord is about the necessary business of sending them on to Bethlehem, where they will give their exotic gifts to the Baby Jesus.
But the Magi’s wake-up call is ever so subtle. Just a gentle tap on a pinkie finger, and the kingly owner of that finger suddenly has his eyes wide open. Simultaneously, and above, the Angel offers a pointed reminder of the Star of Bethlehem, that will be their guide.
Could it be any sweeter?
But don’t be mistaken, these mid-12th century French sculptors could just as skillfully show the brutality of the Last Judgement.