Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978)
    The Night Before Christmas (Santa Peering over Chair at Sleeping Child), Literary Digest magazine cover, December 22, 1923
    Oil on canvas
    28 x 24-1/4 inches (71.1 x 61.6 cm)
    Signed lower right: Norman / Rockwell


    Martin Diamond, New York;
    Eleanor Ettinger, Hawaii;
    Private collection, acquired in 1979;
    Sotheby's, New York, December 5, 1996, lot 192;
    Christopher Clark Fine Art, San Francisco, California;
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, January 24, 2002.

    L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Vol. I, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. 63, no. C169, illustrated.

    This painting is reproduced on the December 1946 cover of The Grade Teacher.

    A copy of the magazine accompanies this lot.

    Few images hold the same sense of nostalgia in the American consciousness than that of Santa Claus visiting the homes of youngsters on Christmas Eve. Artists and writers have long depicted a variety of renderings of Saint Nick, many of these influenced by the 1823 publication of Clement Clarke Moore's poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," now widely known as "The Night Before Christmas." By the 1920s, the classic American Santa embodied as a jolly old man in a red suit was ubiquitous in the work of popular illustrators and familiar to American audiences.

    Similarly, few artists have ever captivated the nation's imagination, particularly around Christmastime, as adeptly as America's most beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell. From his earliest advertisements to his patriotic World War II subjects, Rockwell's virtuoso was in his ability to capture the essence of American culture and a view of a more innocent time in our country's history.

    The present work was featured on the cover of the December 23, 1923 issue of Literary Digest and was Rockwell's fifth and final cover illustration for the magazine. Depicting a sleeping child and dog on Christmas Eve, with a jubilant Santa Claus peeping out from the shadows, The Night Before Christmas is a prime example of Rockwell's painting style of the 1920s and 1930s. A great admirer of Rembrandt, Rockwell often emulated the artist in his early works by utilizing chiaroscuro (light-dark) effects, as here, in the candlelight that illumines the central composition.

    In this nocturnal scene, the child and dog are nestled in a wingback chair, having dozed off waiting for Santa. The fire in the nearby hearth has cooled, and a patchwork quilt wards off the night's chill, with the child's toes peeking through. It is only after we observe the slumbering pair that the subtle figure of Santa Claus emerges from the background, and we sense our own childlike exhilaration at the sight. The Night Before Christmas is a beautifully composed work, which would have told a familiar and magical tale to popular audiences in 1923, just as it does today.

    Estimate: $500,000 - $700,000.

    Condition Report*: Framed Dimensions 37 X 32.75 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    New Calculate Custom Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    ** Lots bearing estimates and without Consignor Reserve shall open at Heritage Auctions' discretion (usually 25% to 60% of the low estimate).

    Auction Info

    Proxy Bidding Ends
    3rd Friday 10:50 am CT
    Auction Dates
    3rd Friday
    Proxy Bidding Time Remaining
    7 Days 13h 32m 48s
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: 55
    Page Views: 1,306

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    This lot is in: 1 - Signature® Floor Session (Live Floor, Live Phone, Mail, Fax, Internet, and Heritage Live):
    (Lots 68001-68243) - 11:00 AM Central Time, Friday, May 3, 2019.
    (Proxy bidding ends ten minutes prior to the session start time. Live Proxy bidding on Heritage Live starts 24 hours before the live session begins and continues through the session.)

    Show All Session Information

    Show Auction Type Info

    Exhibition Viewing Times, Title Page, Floor Session and License Information

    Additional Location Info:
    Heritage Auctions - Design District Showroom
    1518 Slocum Street
    Dallas, TX 75207

    Opening Bid:
    Bid Protection
    w/ Buyer's Premium (BP) : $312,500.00 Minimum Next Bid: $250,000 ($312,500.00 w/ BP)
    Track Item