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Guido Reni, The Adoration of the Shepherds

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Shepherds
Artist Guido Reni
Artist dates 1575 - 1642
Date made about 1640
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 480 × 321 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1957
Inventory number NG6270
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Shepherds
Guido Reni

The Adoration of the Shepherds is a late altarpiece by Guido Reni. Nearly five metres high without its frame, it is one of the largest paintings in the National Gallery’s collection.

In a stable in Bethlehem, a group of shepherds gather around the newborn Christ. Reni has staged a night-time scene, using the darkness to full effect by surrounding the Christ Child with an otherworldly glow that illuminates the faces of those around him; they gaze upon his manger with awe and devotion. Celestial light seems to spill from the heavens through a gap in the clouds, and a group of joyful putti carry a scroll that reads: GLORIA IN ECCELSIS DEO (‘Glory to God in the highest’).

This work was completed in Reni’s final years and was owned by Prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein (1611–1684), who may have commissioned it or acquired it from Reni’s studio following the dispersal of its contents after the artist’s death.

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