St Nicholas with a Christmas Tree laden with gifts



28 x 19cm (image, approx); 36 x 27.5cm (mount). n.p. [Walachia?], n.d. (mid-19th century).

A rather less jolly vision of St Nicholas than we're used to seeing. The patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students became forever linked to the tradition of Christmas due to the many legendary accounts of his secret gift giving. We are accustomed to seeing him either in his ecclesiastical regalia as Bishop of Myra, or in red and white as the traditional figure of Santa Claus (Saint Nick). Here Saint Nicholas wears a rather pared back and muted ensemble and a frown, in one hand holding a festooned Christmas tree, in the other a switch made of twigs. In Romania (and some other European countries) there is a custom that children would polish their shoes on the eve of the 5th of December in the hopes that Saint Nicholas would leave them small gifts (usually fruit or sweets), but if they had been naughty they could expect a switch instead, as a remonstration, and encouragement to improve behaviour. This Saint Nicholas seems to suggest that only good children will get the proffered Christmas Tree and its bounty; naughty children, instead, will get a stern look and a wooden switch!

Image near fine, small tear and minor age toning to mount. 

Stock Code: 233129

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