Orthodox icon | Birth of Christ | Nativity from the famous painting school of Mstera.
In the center of the icon, the Mother of God is depicted with baby Jesus in the manger, accompanied by two angels. Below them, an ox and a donkey are present. Adjacent to them are the three wise men from the East, offering their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
On the left side, Saint Joseph appears contemplative, accompanied by a shepherd. Nearby, a young shepherd is depicted playing a flute.
About the orthodox nativity scene:
Unlike Western depictions of the stable, Eastern icons of the Nativity focus on the cave. In the mountainous surroundings of Bethlehem, caves were used by shepherds to protect their flocks at night or seek refuge in times of danger. When Joseph arrived in Bethlehem for the census, he found shelter for himself and the pregnant Mary in such a cave.
The cave, symbolizing the world of the dead, also holds spiritual significance. The ox and donkey symbolize Jews and Gentiles, while the star and angels represent the presence of the Holy Trinity. The wise men, with their gifts, are reminiscent of the women at the tomb with oils and ointments.
Following the conquest of Bethlehem by Islam in the 7th century, the cave became an enduring element in the Nativity icon as a symbol of remembrance.
The icon depicts the Mother of God resting on a bed, attentively watching over the child in the manger. Midwives lovingly bathe the newborn. Joseph is portrayed sitting by the cave, deep in contemplation. The “wise men” from the East make their approach.
In the East, believers celebrated the birth of Jesus on January 6th, commemorating it as an epiphany or theophany, along with the worship of the wise men and the baptism of the Lord. The decision to observe Christ’s birth on December 25th was made to emphasize the Incarnation of the Son of God and His human nature.
The Council of Ephesus in 431 officially acknowledged Mary as the Mother of God, “Theotokos.”
The robes are adorned with fine gold painting, adding a decorative touch to this beautiful Christmas icon.