In the spirit of the festive season, our gift to you is the 12 days of Christmas retold in artworks. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a carol with roots in 18th-century England, heavy with symbolism and tradition. One theory is that The Twelve Days of Christmas was a child’s game about remembering verses and another is that it connects to a time when Catholicism was illegal. Each verse reminds Catholics about their beliefs meaning they could express their faith through a secret song. Either way, it’s a jolly yuletide hit and as we’re all art lovers here is a mixed-bag visual rendition.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The first day’s partridge is Jesus Christ! So, here is Charles Le Brun‘s imagining of the nativity scene.
Two Turtle Doves
The doves, who knew, are symbolic of the old and new testaments. In honour of them, here is Banksy’s dove in armour in Bethlehem.
Three French Hens
The hens remind us of the three Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. For art history lovers, let’s remember the graces of Greco-roman mythology who are forever being put into artworks.
Four Calling or Collie Birds
A collie is essentially a black bird, and the general idea on day four is to remember the four gospels. But, for our purposes, let’s look at Tracey Emin’s marvellous instalment of bronze birds in Sydney. The seventy life-size bird sculptures jewel the city and encourage flanerie.
Five Golden Rings
This seems a little strange, but apparently, the rings are the first five books of the Old Testament. To celebrate this, why not check out Chagall’s illustrated bible or make the tenuous link to some ladies dancing in a ring…
The six days of creation, of course! Here are a feisty goose and some ducks, all braving it out in some gloomy weather.
The seven swans are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, understanding, piety and fear of God. That’s quite a lot of swans, so let’s just stick to looking at two lovely specimens in the sketchbook of none other than Turner.
The eight maids are the eight beatitudes, which are the blessings in a sermon by Jesus as told in the Gospel of Matthew. Here’s Brueghel the Elder’s version of the scene.
Nine Ladies Dancing
Our nine ladies are meant to represent the fruits of the holy spirt, and to go with that here is a Lady with Fruit.
You guessed it (maybe): the ten commandments. So here’s a fun image of Moses receiving them.
Eleven Pipers Piping
Our musical pipers are the eleven faithful (aka not Judas) apostles. Thus, we bring you a a not so faithful rendition of a pipe (the non musical kind), which you can read more about here.
Twelve Drummers Drumming
Finally, our drummers are meant to be the twelve points in the apostle’s creed. If you’re not sure what those are, here is an illuminated manuscript that tells you.
It is in Latin though, so you can find out what they are here. And for good measure, here are some actual drums.
Stay in the Christmas spirit with some more articles: