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Italian, Neapolitan, The Adoration of the Shepherds

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Shepherds
Artist Italian, Neapolitan
Date made probably 1630s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 228 × 164.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1853
Inventory number NG232
Location Room 30
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Shepherds
Italian, Neapolitan

The Virgin Mary gently lifts her newborn son while Saint Joseph, leaning on his staff, looks tenderly at the Christ Child. They are surrounded by figures including two shepherds who join their hands in adoration, while others offer poultry and lambs as gifts. Two bound lambs are strategically placed in front of Christ, alluding to his future sacrifice on the Cross.

The Virgin and Child are brightly illuminated from the left while the rest of the figures crowding around them are partly in shadow. In the background, the shepherds are shown in an earlier episode in which an angel announces the birth of Christ to them.

When this painting was acquired by the National Gallery it was thought to be by Velázquez. It has also been attributed to other Spanish and Neapolitan artists including Murillo, Ribera and Zurbarán. It is still not certain who painted it but it was most likely a prominent Spanish artist as several copies survive in Spain.

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