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The Adoration of the Shepherds

Giorgione1505 - 1510

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Giorgione has always been considered one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, and one whose influence on following generations of painters was considerable. For all his fame, very little is known about his short life (he may have died during a plague epidemic in 1510 at age 32 or 33), and only a few paintings can be definitively attributed to him. He initially studied with Giovanni Bellini, seems to have been influenced by Leonardo, and could claim Titian and Sebastiano del Piombo as his pupils.

The Adoration of the Shepherds, or the Allendale Nativity, as it is commonly known after one of its previous owners, is now almost unanimously accepted as Giorgione’s work. This important painting had an immediate impact on Venetian artists. The composition is divided into two parts, with a dark cave on the right and a luminous Venetian landscape on the left. The shimmering draperies of Joseph and Mary are set off by the darkness behind them and contrast with the tattered dress of the shepherds. The scene is one of intense meditation; the rustic, yet dignified, shepherds are the first to recognize Christ's divinity and they kneel accordingly. Mary and Joseph also participate in the adoration, creating an atmosphere of intimacy.

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Details

  • Title: The Adoration of the Shepherds
  • Date Created: 1505 - 1510
  • Physical Dimensions: w1105 x h908 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Samuel H. Kress Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on panel
  • Theme: New Testament, Life of Christ
  • School: Venetian
  • Provenance: Cardinal Joseph Fesch [1763 1839], Rome; (Fesch sale, George, Rome, 17 March 1845, no. 874). Claudius Tarral, Paris; (Tarral sale, Christie & Manson, London, 11 June 1847, no. 55); purchased by (Banting) for Thomas Wentworth Beaumont [d. 1848], Bretton Hall, Yorkshire, England; by inheritance to his son, Wentworth Blackett Beaumont, 1st baron Allendale [1829 1907], Bretton Hall; by inheritance to his son, Wentworth Canning Blackett Beaumont, 1st viscount and 2nd baron Allendale [1860 1923], Bretton Hall; by inheritance to his son, Wentworth Henry Canning Beaumont, 2nd viscount and 3rd baron Allendale [1890 1956], Bretton Hall;[1] sold August 1937 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[2] sold 1938 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[3] gift 1939 to NGA. [1] Provenance according to Kress records in NGA curatorial files. [2] The painting is listed in the Duveen Brothers General Stock Book for the period 1 June 1937 to April 1941, and is annotated "Purchased Aug. 3, 1937" (copy in NGA curatorial files; Duveen Brothers Records, Accession No. 960015, Getty Research Institute, Reel 66, Box 186). See also the letter of 4 March 1965 from Ellis Waterhouse to Fern Rusk Shapley, in NGA curatorial files. [3] Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols., Washington, D.C., 1979: 1:151 152.
  • Artist: Giorgione

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