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The Three Kings

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Earlier this summer, Maria I posted some beautiful photos of El Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) in Puerto Rico. I told her that I’d spent one day in Old San Juan many years ago when I was on a cruise that stopped there. I fell in love with the place, and I’ve always intended to go back some day. I also told Maria about two lithographs I bought in Old San Juan - the subject matter of both of them is The Three Kings (aka the Three Wise Men).

Maria said, “The Three Kings are iconic in Puerto Rico. It's part of our cultural heritage and January 6 is a big holiday on the island.” So I took some photos so I could show her my art from Old San Juan.

A quick Google search turned up some cool info about “Dia de los Reyes” or Three King’s Day. In Puerto Rico, it’s the Three Kings who bring gifts to the children and the gifts don’t come on Christmas Day, they come on January 6 which is around the time that the Kings arrived in Bethlehem. This day is also known as Epiphany.

On January 5, children in Puerto Rico put out grass for the Kings’ camels instead of putting out cookies for Santa (I love that!).


A few other cool sites I found:

An art gallery with some other images of the Three Kings

This site has some good info including a sweet photo of some children putting grass in their boxes and also history about the Three Kings themselves. Believe it or not, it’s another case of stolen saints' bodies, a topic that keeps coming up on this blog!

Christian tradition from about the 7th century names the three Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar; their bodies are said to have been brought to Constantinople by Empress Helen, mother of Constantine, thence taken to Milan, and finally to Cologne in 1162 by Frederick Barbarossa; since that time they have often been called the Three Kings of Cologne.

This site has a nice wooden carving of the Three Kings and also a wonderful Madonna and Child.

Anyway, I didn’t really know all this when I bought this art, I just fell in love with the colors and the compositions, and I like art with religious themes and imagery like this. Plus, "We Three Kings of Orient Are" has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs. "Star of wonder, star of light..."

I couldn’t decide which one I liked best so I bought them both. This was almost 20 years ago - sometimes I get tired of the art in my house and want some new stuff but I still love looking at these.

Both lithographs are dated 1990 so I must have bought them that year or shortly after. It was a trip with my family for Christmas – there were about 12 people or so, and going on a cruise is a great way for a big group like that to travel together. I’d never had a big urge to go on a cruise ship but I ended up enjoying it a lot. And stopping in Old San Juan was one of the best parts!

Unfortunately I'm not completely sure who the artists are. I'm sure I've got receipts or something somewhere and although both pieces are signed, it's hard to read the sigs.

The blue one: the signature looks like "R. Matos"
The green one: "Majico Trio by A. Mova (or maybe Nova)?

Here's the green one. I had a time getting decent photos of these lithographs because I kept catching the glare from the glass so I had to snap them from an angle.


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Comments (7)

Anne:

Those are beautiful, no wonder you fell in love with them! I have always loved the Three Kings too. Journey of the Magi stories and poems, Adoration of the Magi paintings, the "We Three Kings" carol...love 'em all!

The Three Kings of Cologne story is so cool. You are so full of fascinating stories!

Oh - love that and what great art work!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, those are two very beautiful pieces of artwork. I also can see why you really love them. Very cool!

I really enjoyed reading about the three kings (I liked all the links you referenced, especially the one to those cute wooden carvings). I enjoyed learning about the "Three KIngs Day" in Puerto Rico. Very interesting.

And I also love that Christmas song . . . .

Thanks for the great read this morning Annie!

Have a great weekend!

Annie, the lithographs are gorgeous! I can see why you fell in love with them and why, after so many years, you still enjoy looking at them.

I love the vivid colors and the different shades of blue on the first lithograph. It's a beautiful and enchanting image of a starry night and the star of Bethlehem shining on the Three Kings. The wooden houses with their lights on are probably of the only old barrio in Old San Juan called La Perla (The Pearl). The second one made me long for the inland part of the island where in some towns the tradition of the Three Kings is still very strong. There's one town that is famous for the parade that brings the Three Wise men into town at dawn with locals dressed as shepherds and a live Nativity scene.

I have to tell you that I read this post with tears in my eyes as I started to reminisce on my childhood and the celebration of the Epiphany and all the excitement that the visit of the Three Kings brought to us children. We were always told that the Three Kings were coming from far away and that they had to bring presents for so many children that we were to receive only one or two presents. On the eve of the Epiphany my three brothers and I would go to an empty lot in our neighborhood and cut fresh grass and put it inside a shoe box and under the bed. In the morning the grass was gone (and sometimes even the box was missing!) and in turn we found our gifts. The presents brought by the Three Kings are always left unwrapped. I clearly remember the year my youngest brother and I got a new pair of roller skates, the old type, the one that clamped on the shoe and had a key that we hung around our neck.

The Epiphany continues to be important to us and my kids still get their presents. They were raised with this tradition, which generated a bit of envy form their childhood friends, and they know that the holiday season doesn't end until January 6th.

Thank you so much for this post and for a trip to my childhood ...

sandrac:

Annie, your lithographs are very beautiful -- the style and the colours are extraordinary.

Your research is so interesting, and Maria's personal experience, fascinating! I remember being so intrigued as a kid by the legends that surrounded the Biblical references to these Three Kings. I suppose the Orient itself sounded so mysterious and exotic and I was fascinated by the idea that they would have felt compelled to travel so far.....

Thanks everyone!

And Maria, thanks so much for your awesome comment. I loved reading about your personal experiences - you made Christmas in Puerto Rico come alive for me! I'm glad to hear that your kids continue the tradition.

There's something so sweet about cutting the grass and putting it under the bed - I love that part! And I also love the Jan. 6 part too - having the holiday be a season instead of just that one day.

About the presents - when I was a kid, Santa never wrapped his presents to me either and I remember being very surprised to find out that he did wrap some other kids' gifts!

Anyway, your comment is wonderful - you should post it on your blog!

Hi Annie! I love the two lithographs! I love the colors of the first one. The scenery in the second one reminds me of Hawaii. I haven't had time to check out all of your links yet, but I plan to this weekend. I only knew a little about Epiphany. Thanks for posting about it. I found the part about the grass for the camels so interesting! Our presents for Santa were also unwrapped and I also did not understand as a child why everyones were not unwrapped.

María, thank you for your comments also! Very interesting to read about your personal experience!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 7, 2008 2:00 PM.

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