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HomeWorldChurch of Jesus Christ Faces Criticism for Altering Nativity Painting

Church of Jesus Christ Faces Criticism for Altering Nativity Painting

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used a 1650s painting by Carlo Maratta as part of its Christmas messaging over the last few years. The image has been used on social media and on free digital downloads to members. Recently, some online viewers realized the original painting by Maratta may have been digitally altered. Angels had been removed and the neckline of Mary’s dress had been modified. You can see the comparison below.

May be art of 1 person and text that says 'Merry Christmas'
A social media image from the Church in 2021.
The original Carlo Maratta painting knows as “The Holy Night.” | Gemäldegalerie

Gordon Monson wrote in an opinion piece, “Nothing wrong with respecting women; nothing wrong with modesty, but when the church drapes a shirt over the Virgin Mary in classic art, eliminating the slightest bit of cleavage, what exactly does that do? It draws more attention to that form, sexualizes it, even in a rendering that depicts the mother of the Lord in complete innocence, adoring her newborn.”

However, Marratta completed multiple versions of this same painting. One known as “The Virgin laying the sleeping Christ on Straw” shows garments by the original artist more closely resembling those in the Church’s altered rendering. There are also no angels in this portrait.

“The Virgin laying the sleeping Christ on Straw” | Museo del Prado

No representatives of the Church have commented on the matter, nor has any background information been provided on which paintings were used to create the final images posted by the Church.

Here are similar works by Maratta, reproductions of the painting, and the places they are located.

“Nativity” | San Giuseppe dei Falegnami


H22806-L281479705_original.jpg (2400×1756)
“Circle of Carlo Maratta, Nativity. Oil on canvas. Relined.” | Barcelona, Spain (attributed to the style of Maratta)


“Heilige Nacht” | Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser (a reproduction labeled as a “close stylistic imitation” of the Maratta painting)
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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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