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Adoration of the Shepherds

Livio Mehus (Oudenaarde 1627-Florence 1691)

1670-1680 c.
Oil on canvas
73 × 88 cm
1890 no. 3430

At the centre of the painting, a group of shepherds and farmers is surrounding the Holy Family to pay homage to the child Jesus. In this way, it offers an intimate interpretation of the evangelical episode. At the centre of the scene, the Virgin is lifting a piece of sheet to cover her son. The light radiating from the Child dominates the scene and illuminates the surrounding figures. This kind of nocturnal lighting recalls Correggio, one of the first and important artists who used this style. Its small dimensions lead to suppose that it was a private devotional painting.

The kind and devoted expressions, as well as the tender and significant gestures of the protagonists evoke the so-called “poetry of the affections”, according to the models of great artists such as Correggio and Federico Barocci.

In the background, the sky is broken by flashes and streaked clouds seeming to predict a storm. This detail shows the clear interest of Mehus for the depiction of nature and atmospheric effects, two privileged aspects in the tradition of Northern painting.

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