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The Adoration of the Shepherds
Luca Signorelli
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The Virgin Mary kneels and bows her head before the newborn Christ, while her husband Joseph sits behind her on a low rock. Three shepherds bow in worship to the left. Despite its small scale, the painting demonstrates Signorelli’s immense skill at drawing the human body in complex poses, covering and revealing forms through their draperies.

The size and shape of this little panel makes it look like it is part of a predella, which is the lowest tier of an altarpiece running along the bottom of the main image. But the decorative framing elements make it more likely that it was intended as a stand-alone image, possibly the bottom edge of a tabernacle, a container in which the Host (the bread that was consecrated at the Eucharist) was stored. The painting was once thought to be unfinished but it is more likely that it was simply painted quite quickly.

Key facts
Artist Luca Signorelli
Artist dates about 1440/50 - 1523
Full title The Adoration of the Shepherds
Date made probably about 1490-1510
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 17.1 x 64.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1900
Inventory number NG1776
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings 1250-1600
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