(b. 1477, Castelfranco, d. 1510, Venezia)

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Oil on panel, 91 x 111 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The Adoration of the Shepherds or the Allendale Nativity, as it is commonly known after one of the previous owners, is now generally accepted as by Giorgione. However, the debate on its attribution continues, with Bellini and the young Titian considered as possible authors. It is assumed by some critics that the landscape was painted by Titian.

This important work had an immediate impact on Venetian painting. The composition is divided into two parts, the 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 are also contrasted with the tattered dress of the shepherds. The scene is one of intense meditation; the rustic 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.