No Partridge, No Pear Tree, But We Do Have Birds, Trees, And A Famous Saint
I’ve been doing a Christmas cover illustration for editor Eric Meisfjord and the Inland Register for quite a few years now. I always look forward to it. The Inland Register is the monthly news magazine for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington, USA.
My original concept did not include Saint Francis. That was Mr. Meisfjord’s suggestion, and it was an inspiration for a couple of reasons.
Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the most beloved Catholic saints. Rich kid, wild youth, dramatic conversion, a life of humility, simplicity, poverty, and personal holiness. It’s a story that gets your attention.
There are many stories and legends about Saint Francis, including his preaching to the birds and other animals. He is very much identified with a love of nature and all creation.
Below, left: Saint Francis by Jusepe de Ribera; middle: St. Francis preaching to a
very diverse “flock” (I regret to say I’ve been unable to discover who did this wonderful illustration); right: a St. Francis statue (many people have one in their garden).
I said including St. Francis here was an inspiration for a couple of reasons. OK, he has an association with birds– what’s the second reason?
The concept became enormously popular, and remains so to this day. Key figures include Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, shepherds, animals, and the Magi.
Naturally, at this point, the big question on everybody’s mind is: What’s the total number of birds in the illustration?
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