The Adoration of the shepherds, in the Nativity of Jesus in art, is a scene in which shepherds are near witnesses to the birth of Jesus, at his birthplace, typically depicted as a barn, near Bethlehem. It is based on the account in the Gospel of Luke, not reported by any other Canonical Gospel, which states that an angel appeared to a group of shepherds, saying that Christ had been born in Bethlehem. Luke then states that a crowd of angels appear to the shepherds saying H'allelujah, peace on earth to men of good will. The shepherds are then described as being spurred by this to visit Jesus, before they return to their flocks. The scene is very often combined with the Adoration of the Magi.
The speech of the angels became the initial part of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, often known simply as the Gloria, a doxology that appears in the traditional Christian Mass. Consequently it has had many musical settings, though, since the text only forms the introductory section of the Gloria, it is usually one of the most plain parts of the music.
In more recent times it has become a well known Christmas carol - While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night. This carol changes the speech of the crowd of angels into the subtly different ...peace on earth and good will to all men.
Many artists have also treated this subject, famous examples include works by:
- Correggio: Adoration of the Shepherds, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
- Caravaggio: Adoration of the Shepherds, Museo Regionale, Messina
- Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sassetti Chapel, Santa Trinita, Florence
- Giorgione, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- Giotto, in the Cappella degli Scrovegni
- Hugo van der Goes: Portinari Triptych, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
- El Greco, Museo del Prado, Madrid
- Georges de la Tour, Louvre, Paris
- Andrea Mantegna, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
- Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
- Nicolas Poussin, National Gallery, London
- Rembrandt, National Gallery, London
- Martin Schongauer, Neues Museum, Berlin
- Edward Burne-Jones's stained-glass windows in Trinity Church, Boston
- Levey, Michael (1961). From Giotto to Cézanne. Thames and Hudson,. ISBN 0-500-20024-6.
- Beckwith, John (1969). Early Medieval Art. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20019-x.
- Myers, Bernard (1965, 1985). Landmarks of Western Art. Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-35840-2.
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