Pieter Paul Rubens

Adoration of the Shepherds

Adoration of the Shepherds
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Author: Pieter Paul Rubens
Painting, Oil on canvas, 63.5x47 cm
Origin: Flanders, 1608

The Hermitage canvas is a modello or final sketch for a painting which sets out the overall composition of the future work. In this case the intended application was for a large altarpiece that Rubens painted for the Church of Santo Spirito in the town of Fermo, the second major commission which the artist received in Italy. As was typical with such sketches, we see here a deep reddish colour scheme in the painting and a free and thick impasto application of the brushstrokes which the artist borrowed from Venetian painting. These are qualities that were not typical of his later works.

The model for Rubens's work was the well-known canvas by Correggio, The Adoration of the Magi which is today in the Gemaldegalerie, Dresden. We detect Correggio's influence both in the emotionality of the images and in the organization of the picture into a two-tiered structure. In the upper part of the painting we see a group of angels soaring overhead, while below there are the shepherds and the Virgin Mary, who lean over the crib of the infant Christ. The influence of another major reformer of Italian painting, Michelangelo da Caravaggio, may be felt in the peculiarity of the peasant faces and in the lighting, which literally lifts the figures out of the darkness.

Personage: Madonna and Child
Style: Baroque
Source of entry: Collection of Count von Bruhl, Dresden, 1769
Theme: The Bible and Christianity
Exibition: Flemish Art: 17th century

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