The Nativity

The Mural of thr Nativity

The first mural to be painted by Stanley Warren, was that of the Nativity, or birth of Jesus Christ. On the left of the mural, Stanley painted each of the three wise men who presented gifts to the baby Jesus as being from different racial groups. Kneeling at the front is a Middle Eastern King, with a European King behind him, and a turbaned Oriental King at the rear. He later stated that if the bible had allowed a fourth king, he would have been painted as an African. The old shepherd bending over has his lips pursed, cooing at the child. The animals, with the exception of the red calf are moving towards the crib. The red calf has a little irreverently begun to move away, but as if by afterthought has turned its head towards the infant Jesus. The ox has the hump characteristic of the Asian variety. St. Joseph is throwing his hands in the air as if in astonishment. “We all laughed at that, including Padres Chambers and Pain”, remembered Stanley. The Madonna is portrayed in quite a traditional manner as Stanley wished her to be a familiar figure to the men. Stanley concentrated his effort on the head of the Virgin, working on expressing the greatest tenderness possible from the harsh media he was using. In the end he was satisfied that the refinement he achieved was the best he could do under the circumstances.

Stanley did not always agree with Padre Chambers about the murals. Their first disagreement concerned the caption for the Nativity mural. Stanley wanted to use the text from the 1611 Authorised version of the Bible, “Glory to God in the highest. On earth peace, goodwill to all men”. The Padre wanted the Vulgate translation, “Peace on earth to men of goodwill”. Stanley felt that the Vulgate translation gave the option of deciding who were men of goodwill, and who were not. For several days, artist and padre argued over this so fiercely that the padre was reduced to tears. In the end, Stanley gave way, and the words from the Vulgate translation were used.

Despite being desperately ill at times with dysentery, and thinking that he may well die, Stanley completed his mural in time for Christmas, one of the great Christian celebrations. He became quite ill after completing this mural and was unable to attend the Christmas service. From his bed in the ward above the Chapel, he listened to, and drew inspiration from, the carol singing from Chapel below, where the congregation overflowed onto the verandah and path outside.