Cheery and chubby, Father Christmas towers over our annual festival. Yet St Nicholas, his Christian inspiration, was a far more intriguing character, says Alastair Sooke.
Nothing captures the commercialisation of Christmas quite as effectively as the history of Santa Claus. To illustrate the point, look at a wonderful 16th-century painting that hangs in Room 7 of the National Gallery in London. Most people who pass by it are unaware of its significance. But this panel, circa 1555-60, preserves a particularly pure element of the Christmas spirit.
The painting, attributed to the Tuscan mannerist Girolamo Macchietti, depicts the most important legend of St Nicholas of Myra.
… an excllent little article from the Daily Telegraph.