Honthorst was a Dutch Golden Age painter who became known for his depiction of artificially lit scenes, eventually receiving the nickname Gherardo delle Notti (“Gerard of the Nights”). Honthorst was influenced by the works of Caravaggio, specifically with respect to the lighting effects in the latter’s paintings. The more famous painting of his was The Adoration of the Shepards. Below is the Adoration of the Christ Child. This is a very special painting and calls to mind the opening words of St John’s Gospel, which used to be said at each Mass. I have included these in English and Latin below.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

in principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum 2 hoc erat in principio apud Deum 3 omnia per ipsum facta sunt et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est 4 in ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum 5 et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt

The lighting in the above photograph does not show the two figures on the left with the requisite clarity for us to appreciate that they are in fact angels. I have included a brighter photograph below. The kindliness of these angels looking down on the Christ child after he has been born is very endearing. The light on their faces as they pray to Him is rendered with such reverence and quiet beauty that is rather overwhelms me. One of the advantages of discussing works of Christian art, as I have been doing of late, is that it helps me deepen in the faith. Reflecting on works produced by the faithful which came before me helps me to see how inspired they were by Christ’s teaching. To produce a work such as this shows real love for, and understanding of, the subject matter.

Christ is the way the truth and the light. In Him, as John says, is the light of all people. This light shines forth from the Christ child and illuminates all those around Him. This indeed is a metaphor for His effect in our lives and hearts, should we choose to accept Him.

Mary is rendered beautifully, looking serene and at peace, having delivered into the world the greatest gift of all. Jospeh, stoic and silent as ever, stands behind, watchful and fatherly. Joseph is solent throughout the Gospels, he is not recorded as having spoken at all. This divine silence is a testament to the depth of his service to God in bringing up His only son, in a quiet and dignified manner. Christ is not Joseph’s son, of course. This was put forcefully to Joseph when he and Mary discovered Jesus in the Temple. I discussed this event of the Gospel in May, reflecting on a beautiful painting by Holman Hunt. Christ Himself is the picture of tranquility, radiating light and appearing only in mild discomfort.

This painting has moved me and I hope it will help you in some measure, or indeed brighten up your day.