The Adoration of the Shepherds
  • Date: c. 1645
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 235.5 x 161.5 cm, maximum
  • Object size: 261.5 x 193 x 10 cm
  • Inv: P129
  • Location: Great Gallery
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Further Reading
  • The subject is taken from the Gospel of St Luke. The action is set in a cave which serves as a stable. The Christ Child, in swaddling clothes, provides the main source of light in the picture. The shepherds’ gift of a bound lamb foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, whilst the group of three angels may refer to the Holy Trinity.

    The painting is a masterpiece of Baroque religious painting with its combination of drama and concentration. It bears a strong stylistic affinity to Rubens’s works. At the time Champaigne left Flanders in 1621, Rubens was still influenced by Caravaggio. It was probably commissioned in the mid-1640s for the Abbey of Notre Dame de Quincy, near Tanlay, in France. The patron has traditionally been identified as Cardinal de Richelieu, chief minister to Louis XIII of France. It is more probable, however, that the painting was commissioned by the abbot of Notre Dame de Quincy, Mathieu de Mesgrigny, who was responsible for rebuilding the nave of the abbey church from 1635–6. Champaigne painted numerous altarpieces of the Adoration (in Lyon, Lille and Rouen, with numerous smaller works related to them) of which this painting is the most monumental. An early date of c. 1628 has been debated, but the painting is now generally dated to the 1640s, in Champaigne's mid-career. An oil sketch is in the Portland Museum.