(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
Adoration of the Shepherds1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 346 x 137 cm
Muzeul National de Arta, Bucharest
Probably originally on the left of the retable of the Colegio de Doña Maria, and painted following the Annunciation. A small version, possibly the model for the large painting, is in the Galleria Corsini, Rome. The scrolls borne by the angels bear the inscription in Latin: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men (Luke II, I4); another popular subject in El Greco's repertoire, painted throughout his life. It was one of the subjects of the Modena Triptych, and of his first commission in Spain, that for the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, and was the subject chosen for his own burial chapel in Santo Domingo.
A comparison with the earlier painting of the same subject in Santo Domingo shows the advance made in the process of developing a style appropriate to the expression of the supernatural. There is no reference to the ordinary conception of space of this world, there are no allusions to the corporal quality of the figures, whose gestures also belong to the realm of imagination and not to that of ordinary experience. Light is the important dematerialising and expressive element in this painting. The Santo Domingo painting can still be related to a human event.