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FACULTY MEMBERS SHARE THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON WITH THEORY ON THE CHRISTMAS STAR & LIST OF TOP HOLIDAY WORKS OF ART

The brilliant star that guided wise men to the birthplace of Jesus, according to the Bible, most likely wasn't a "star in the east" at all, according to Bruce Hanna, director of Old Dominion University's Pretlow Planetarium.

Rather, it was probably a triple conjunction - a bright grouping of planets in the sky - that attracted their attention. Records indicate that a triangular alignment of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter occurred on Dec. 4 in 7 B.C. Such phenomena occur every 150-800 years, Hanna said.

In order for the wise men to follow this light during their journey, it would have to have been long-lasting, ruling out a meteor or meteor shower, Hanna added. Astrological records from the era also make no mention of a supernova, which can last for months and would have been noticed, he said. A triple conjunction can be bright, visible both day and night.

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Robert Wojtowicz, chair of the Old Dominion art department, has listed the top 10 holiday works of art.

"Christmas iconography is really a phenomenon of the 19th century to the present, so what I've developed is a personal and idiosyncratic list that brings in older images that have a Christ-child or winter theme." In no particular order, they are:

· Gentile da Fabriano, "Adoration of the Magi," Florence, Uffizi Museum, 1423 - "Richly populated and colorful rendition of the Wise Men's procession."
· Sandro Boticelli, "Madonna and Child," National Gallery, Washington, D.C. 1490 - "A tender treatment of the familiar subject."
· Raphael, "Sistine Madonna," Dresden, c. 1510 - "One with the whimsical angels perched at the bottom -- too bad they've been over-reproduced lately!"
· Jan Steen, "Feast of St. Nicholas," Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, c. 1660-1665 - "An amusing genre painting that shows how people celebrated in the past."
· Gilbert Stuart, "The Skater," National Gallery, Washington, 1782 - "A minister ice-skating in London -- need I say more?"
· Caspar David Friedrich, "The Cross and the Cathedral," Kunstmuseen, Dusseldorf, c. 1811 - "A wintery view of Christmas-like fir trees and a Gothic cathedral."
· Currier and Ives, "Homestead in Winter," c. 1865 - "A popular print even today showing an American farmhouse with a sleigh in front."
· Haddon Sundblom, The Coca Cola Santa Claus, c. 1930 - advertising design -- "The best of the illustrators' various Santas."
· Flexible Flyer Sled, c. 1930-present -- Industrial design - "The best possible child's gift and still in production."
· Associated Architects, Rockefeller Center -- with Christmas tree and skating rink -- New York, 1931-1941 "The best Christmas urban architectural ensemble."

This article was posted on: December 20, 2000

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