Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene, circa 1495
Tempera on panel
Indianapolis Museum of Art
This work of art is from David Letterman's home state, Indiana. I grew up in Illinois, the state immediately west of Indiana, so I've been there many times, but looking back it seems more like a place you drive through to get somewhere else than a place you go. The last time I was there other than to drive through it was a trip to Evansville in the late 80s, to visit a friend at the University of Evansville.
This strikes me as rather an odd painting. It's pretty common to see John the Baptist in paintings with the Virgin Many and Jesus; they were, after all, related to one another (John's mother, Elizabeth, was Mary's sister), and as an adult John prophesied his cousin's ministry (in Matthew 3, my pick for the funniest passage in the Bible) and later baptized him. John was about six months older than Jesus... but in this painting, John is an adult and Jesus is an infant. That ain't right!
Previous Advent posts:
2003: Hopkins, "Moonless Darkness Stands Between"
2004: Bearden, Black Madonna and Child
2005: Joy to the World
2006: Tate, "Song of the Angel at the Nativity"