instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Picturing a World

I take up the challenge

Yesterday, I called for feminist meditations or new art based on the appearance of two midwives in the same apocryphal gospel that introduced the ox and the ass to Nativity lore. Well, after writing the post, I took up my own challenge.

Midwives at the Manger

I don’t care who the father was,
The girl could not give birth alone.
So young, both of them.
Shepherds might have known what to do;
They assist their ewes at lambing time;
But they came later.
No, the carpenter begged for a midwife,
And the innkeeper sent for me, Zebel.
I brought Salome along.
(We did have names, but forget
Anything you’ve heard about a withered hand.)
We arrived by starlight,
Angels up in the rafters,
Otherwise a normal birth: pain,
Blood, squalling baby, a bath afterward.
An easier labor than most, I admit,
As though the child would spare his mother then
Inevitable grief.
Behind the manger where I laid him down, swaddled,
A sweet-breathed ox and ass who came in when we did
Were allowed to stay. For millennia.
Only we departed, Salome and me.
All the same, we had been there, were there, are there,
Midwives to transcendence.


© 2017 by Katherine Keenum. All rights reserved

For Giotto’s splendid Nativity with angels in the rafters and the midwives, click hereRead More 
Be the first to comment

Midwives on Christmas

In the 2nd C, when the ox and the ass entered Christian nativity lore, so did a pair of midwives for the Virgin Mary. I learned about them a decade ago when I first read A Book of Carols (1966) edited by Eleanor Sayre and illustrated with artwork from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. A note to an engraving says that until the 15th century, the midwives were frequently shown performing various tasks Read More 
Be the first to comment

Palmer’s Christmas

Samuel Palmer’s art has sparked in me a new appreciation of what etchings can do. This tender scene of a shepherd returning home in moonlight was inspired by lines from John Bampfylde’s sonnet, “On Christmas” (1778):

Old Christmas comes, to close the waned year,
And aye the shepherd's heart to make right glad;
Who, when his teeming flocks are homeward had,
To blazing hearth repairs, and nut-brown beer;
And views, well pleased, the ruddy prattlers dear
Hug the grey mongrel …


Hearth, gentle light, loved ones, and the wonder of new interests be yours this Christmas Eve. Read More 
Be the first to comment

Windsor Castle Christmas tree

For a story I am writing, I wanted to visualize a long corridor in a palace and went searching for image to aid my imagination. A blog post, Documented Interiors, helped on that score and, as a bonus, provided this watercolor of Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree. The picture is new to me and seems perfect to kick off the run up to Christmas Day. As for the host site, Spencer Alley, oh my, what a wealth of unexpected topics and seldom seen pictures. Gifts galore! Read More 
2 Comments
Post a comment

“Christmas Time Again”

After running out of Christmas cards, I went today to the Bookloft in Great Barrington, an excellent independent bookstore, where there was one box left with cards showing the the right wing of this triptych. Lovely to discover that the piece dates to 1907 (so close to my magic year of 1908 as makes no difference) and then to find the whole on line where it can be enlarged.  Read More 
Post a comment

Christmas morning 1908

As far as I’m concerned, an album of Carl Larsson images is the perfect way to glimpse a world we hope was true. Nostalgia? Sure. Merry Christmas, everybody!

For more strictly Christmas images by Larsson, click hereRead More 

Be the first to comment

Sherlock Holmes for Christmas

I’ve just learned what to read tonight: “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” by A. Conan Doyle. It ran in this December 12, 1908, edition of Colliers. And what fun—Maxfield Parrish! Surely, Mattie is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and probably of Parrish, too.

Be the first to comment

X in Xmas

Mattie Palmer, my new heroine, is Jeanette’s younger sister. Since Where the Light Falls is set in 1878–1880 and ANONYMITY in 1908, this magazine cover comes halfway between the chronologically. It’s sort of like a Rorschach test: Would Jeanette’s art be leading her this direction? Would Mattie like it? The fact  Read More 

Be the first to comment

Christmas tree

Elizabeth Forbes, Christmas Tree (n.d.)
Whoops! I forgot to hit "Publish" on Dec. 23rd—a bonus from Canadian-born Elizabeth Adela Forbes Stanhope (Jeanette’s contemporary). Happy Boxing Day.
Be the first to comment

Puck Christmas 1908

The true meaning of Christmas may be the opposite of worldly vanity, but I can’t resist posting this image from the period of my present research for ANONYMITY.

San Francisco-based Grant Gordon (best known as a marine painter) provided illustrations to Puck and other periodicals.

I have to assume that my heroine, Mattie,  Read More 
Be the first to comment