Adorazione dei pastori Allendale (1505-1510)

Giorgione (c.1477-1510)

Adorazione dei pastori Allendale (The Adoration of the Shepherds)
Oil on panel, 90.8 x 110.5 cm cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Four people with pale skin are gathered to our right in a landscape, their heads bowed down toward an infant who lies on a white cloth on the ground in this horizontal painting. The nude baby has a rounded belly, chubby limbs, and short blond hair. To our right and near the edge of the panel, a woman kneels with her hands in prayer, looking toward the baby so she faces our left in profile. She wears a lapis-blue robe over a rose-pink dress, and a white cloth covers her head and shoulders. Behind her and to our left, a man with a white beard, wearing a golden yellow robe, sits or kneels next to a rock at the mouth of a cave cut into a rocky outcropping that extends off the top of the composition. To the left of the baby and at the center of the foreground, a pair of men wear tattered clothing and hold shepherd’s staffs. The man closer to us kneels with his hands pressed together in prayer as the man behind him bends his knee as if to kneel. The landscape recedes deep into the distance on the left half of the painting with a winding river, houses and other buildings, grassy hills, and mountains beneath a blue sky. A small winged angel wearing white looks down on the scene from the upper left corner. 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. (NGA)