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Nicolas Poussin, The Adoration of the Shepherds

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Shepherds
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1633-4
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 97.2 × 74 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought with a special grant and contribution from the Art Fund, 1957
Inventory number NG6277
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Shepherds
Nicolas Poussin

Shepherds kneel and stand in order to praise the baby Jesus, watched by Joseph and the Virgin Mary. The stone archway frames an earlier episode: the same shepherds fall over in surprise as an angel appears in the clouds to announce Christ’s birth to them. Following an old tradition in painting, Poussin paints these two scenes as if they are happening at the same time, with architecture separating the activity in the distance and foreground.

The stable is built within classical ruins, symbolising the triumph of Christianity over paganism. A young lady carries a ‘birth tray’ of fruits as a present to the new mother and cherubs holding flowers hover above. The women’s vivid blue draperies stand out against the men’s ruddy skin and the coppery stone of the building.

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