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Italian, Florentine, The Adoration of the Shepherds

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Shepherds
Artist Italian, Florentine
Date made about 1600
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 31.4 × 24.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG1887
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Shepherds
Italian, Florentine

The glowing Christ Child lies in a manger in a dark and dilapidated stable. The Virgin Mary kneels on the right beside Saint Joseph. Two angels hover in the darkness behind and three shepherds peer at the baby; the one in the foreground carries a lamb by its feet.

The night sky above has opened to reveal a host of cherubs, one of whom holds a banner with the Latin words ‘GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO’ (‘Glory be to God in the highest’).

This small painting was previously attributed to Scarsellino (about 1550–1620), an artist who worked in Ferrara, and was later thought to be North Italian. Recent cleaning has revealed the delicacy of the brushwork (especially evident in the starlit sky and the foremost shepherd’s fur trim and pouch), which is enhanced by the smooth copper on which this picture is painted. The bright colour range unveiled by the cleaning suggests it was painted in Florence at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

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