Curator’s Choice

Artist unknown
c. 1999-2001
Mother of Pearl, Abalone, Wood
Gift of Pope St. John Paul II

Presented to the Knights of Columbus by Pope St. John Paul II, this annual nativity was carved from mother of pearl with inlaid abalone. It depicts episodes from the life of Jesus: the Annunciation, his birth, the Last Supper, and the Resurrection.

The top left medallion shows the Archangel Gabriel reaching out over the kneeling Virgin Mary, perhaps announcing “…behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). The medallion on the right shows the Risen Christ leaving behind his burial cloths and emerging from the tomb.

The center scene on the left combines the accounts of the Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. While the shepherds with their flocks arrive to adore the newborn Child, two angels overhead proclaim “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (Luke 2:14) Above the Holy Family the Star of Bethlehem shines, which guides the Magi to the manger (Matthew 2:2). On the center right, Jesus gathers at table with his twelve Apostles during Last Supper.