The Adoration of the Shepherds by Francisco de Zurbaran

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The Adoration of the Shepherds by Francisco de Zurbaran

Painting NameThe Adoration of the Shepherds
Painter NameFrancisco de Zurbaran
Completion Date1639
Size104 x 139 cm (3' 4.94" x 4' 6.72")
Current LocationMusee des Beaux-Arts (Grenoble Dauphine France)

The event of The Adoration of the Shepherds has been depicted on walls, canvases and clothes so many times, that every new version consists its own add-ons and every artist tries to come up with a new angle for the significant event in Jesus’s life.

The current portrayal by the Spanish Caravaggio Francisco Zurbaran, celebrates the moment when shepherds arrived at the manger to get the glimpse of the son of god for the first time after the annunciation of shepherds. They have reached the place and are beholding the first glimpse of the godly child with awe and admiration. The sacredness and purity and veneration of place could not be matched with any other Christian event as the event has no evil speck in any character or implementation.

Moreover, the artist from renaissance era has also included some symbolic elements in the scene to represent implemented and heightened meanings in disguise. It was a popular method in renaissance to involve the hidden massages and clues about the painting itself, which is still active in modern days moderately.

The basket of eggs at the bottom of the painting represents a very important indication towards the holy happening as it is placed near newborn Jesus. Eggs in paintings are symbols of protection, growth, new beginning and rebirth. In short, the whole incident could be represented as an egg as the Jesus is the newborn, the peers are the protectors and the birth of the Jesus brings a new beginning and renaissance to the world and changed the face of religions on earth.

The angel playing a harp in the clouds represents the connection between the mortal and the “other-world” or the heaven or the place of gods! A harp was believed to be sacred and a way or a door to reach the heavens. That’s why oftentimes; an angel is represented playing the harp. Here, in Adoration of the Shepherds, the harp’s presence clearly indicates the connection between gods and humans in the form of – Jesus.

The lamb on the right side corner means the innocence and tenderness, maybe representing the softness of the moment of a child’s birth. Zurbaran has not depicted characters under the knees leaving it for viewer’s imagination and giving more importance to torso and facial expressions of the characters.

The reason Zurbaran was called as Spanish Caravaggio is perceivable here. The painting consist only two light sources for two different scenes, which gives the painting its characteristics similar to the chiaroscuro, a technique used by Caravaggio as his main style.

Thus, Zurbaran has included much more things than a general viewer could see and understand which consolidates the scene with extensive knowledge and information.


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