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The Birth of Christ illumination is placed at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, and depicts Luke’s Nativity story. The image features several elements that were used in the ancient art of illumination, such as the use of gold leaf, the ox motif (in the same style as found in Palaeolithic cave paintings of great aurochs at Lascaux, France), and the manger is depicted with the “reverse perspective” (Sink, 2014, p.244) technique often seen in Byzantine icon artworks, wherein the front appears narrower than the back (Sink, 2013).
Some aspects of this illumination are very different from our contemporary representations of the Nativity. For example, the shepherds are women and children; the baby Jesus is not pictured but instead a shaft of gold emanates from the manger (Explore The Saint John's Bible: Luke - opening page, 2019), and this along with the choir of angels form the symbol of the cross (Sink, 2013).
Explore The Saint John’s Bible: Luke – opening page. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.saintjohnsbible.org/Promotions/Explore/#book/909
Sink, S. (2013). The art of The Saint John’s Bible: The complete reader’s guide. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.