On the Morning of Christ's Nativity William Blake Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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On the Morning of Christ's Nativity displays the imaginative sensivity that is typical of William Blake's art and poetry. The stable where Christ is born consists of a simple wooden frame and gabled roof. It is surrounded by a surreal, heavenly background of neatly drawn clouds edging the scene.

There's no turmoil in Blake's illustration, only peace and harmony. The top of the painting shows the circular bands of the edge of Heaven. Above the stable's roof is an angel hovering upside down. The angel's gaze is directed towards Heaven, but its arms and wings are outstretched over the roof protecting the figures within. Lying beneath the stable is a semi-naked, human figure who is gazing at the scene inside the stable. The two characters are symbolic of how Christ's life will be a mixture of the earthly and the divine.

Inside the Stable On the Morning of Christ's Nativity

There is very little room inside the stable. The arrangement emphasises the importance of the figures within and encourages the viewer to pay attention to them. The centre of the stable shows Mary, Christ's mother, kneeling on the floor with the new-born baby Jesus in her arms. The tall, dignified figure of Joseph can barely fit into the stable indicating his important role as Christ's father on earth. He leans parallel to the roof and bends protectively over his wife and Christ. To the left of the stable's interior are two oxen, symbolising strength and reassurance. They also provide On the Morning of Christ's Nativity with some lightheartedness. Although the oxen are gazing at the infant Jesus, they are taking the opportunity to eat the hay in the manger.

Divine Inspiration

On the Morning of Christ's Nativity was inspired by the poem, Nativity Ode by John Milton (1608-1674). William Blake (1757-1827) had adored Milton's work since childhood. Between 1809 and 1815, Blake was commissioned to produce two versions of On the Morning of Christ's Nativity. The pencil and watercolour sketches are very similar and belong to a wider set of illustrations. On the Morning of Christ's nativity from the Thomas set measures 7.6 inches by 10 inches (25.5 cm by 19.4 cm). It is at Manchester, in the Whitworth Art Gallery. The Butts' Set is in Huntington's Art Gallery. William Blake's highly imaginative On the Morning of Christ's Nativity inspired many people including the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the surrealist painter, Paul Nash.