Saint Nicholas with jingle bells
by Jost Amman (1539-1591)
Colored copy of a drawing by Jost Amman, ca. 1575, Musée du Louvre, ca. 300 x 200 mm
This drawing shows Saint Nicholas in a somewhat different role as we are familiar with in our time. The 16th century legendary saint wears a hat with a little tree on top provided with some objects and birds. In his left hand he holds a vase and in his right hand a whip. For security he has slung the reins over his left arm. He has a belt with jingle bells around his waist and a ribbon with a big cracknell around his neck. The donkey has one bell hanging from the throat-lash of its very simple bridle. A sack has been tied to the donkey’s tail. Saint Nicholas rides on a fleece or fur without stirrups. Striking are his large blue sandals with high heels and toes ending in a pointed nose. Even when our image of the saint has become very different, we can recognize various elements of Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas as we know them in our time. The Christmas tree is there with the little presents we expect, the jingle bells we recognize in songs and the delicacies belonging in the December season. According to its footfall, the donkey is trotting. It is the faithful and reliable servant which has played such an indispensable role in the history of mankind, so often shown in art.