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About Christmas

On Christmas stamps of Croatian Post we have intended that each part of Croatia be given its part of pride. So the towns and localities of Oštarije, Žminj, Zagreb, Luka Šipanska, Požega and Košljun… have already presented themselves to us with their Christmas scenes. This time the Christmas scene arrives from Dubrovnik, the town where the sides of the world were in touch. However, it is not sure that the picture was actually painted in Dubrovnik. A somewhat naive master could have actually painted it in Dubrovnik, on his way to some other place, watching with one eye Greece as his place of origin and with the other Venice where he was heading, already knowing something about it. Or, he had painted it already in Venice and still full of remembrances; or he had just copied a more virtuous template for a somewhat more modest order from Dubrovnik. Anyhow, the Christmas scene The Adoration of the Magi from the Duke's Palace has been dated in the 17th century and described as a work by an Italo-Cretan master. On one side the master seems to be developing a soft Venetian scene full of warm colours and with many realistic details, while on the other side he transforms the volumes into surfaces by strong, schematized strokes.

Having lost the Cretan War from Turks, the Venetians - withdrawing - took with themselves a number of Greek works of art. It is known that one galleon full of them landed in Korčula. Between East and West the artists and the works of art were intermediaries of influences and experiences. The best known example is certainly the great painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco, who - already a century earlier, left Crete heading toward the West and In Venice had encounters crucial for his work.

A beautiful painting from the Duke's Palace enchants us with the details of Christmas tale: cute Madonna's face, underlined by Joseph's age, almost old-looking small Jesus, gifts from exotic kings (from whom to the one kneeling, the oldest among them, his golden chain moved so convincingly), the kings' turbans (this Turkey is so close), tall neck of a horse stretched to see better, unhandily sawed through antique column… And especially with the wonderful, melted yellowness of clouds which the star has gilded…

This is a painting where two speeds meet, one of the East, slower and more persistent and the other of the West, always eager to develop and change. The western abundance and dynamics of the real world have dominated over Eastern stiffness. Such a huge historical subtext is contained in a small and poetic Christmas greetings card from Dubrovnik.

Željka Čorak