(click to enlarge)
The Nativity, 1888
Oil on canvas
Called The Nativity, its true subject is the redemption of mankind through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth exemplified by the life of Christ. The somber mood of the scene results not only from muted coloring and static figures, but also from many symbols of death: the crown of thorns, chalice, and urn; the shroudlike garments; and the draping of the manger reminiscent of a bier. The Latin inscription refers to the Resurrection: Because of the misery of the poor and the groaning of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord. As in the unusual iconography of The King and the Shepherd, nearby, this inscription is a subtle allusion to the social miseries of Victorian Britain.
from the website of the Carnegie Museum of Art