MAINO, Fray Juan Bautista
(b. 1581, Pastrana, d. 1649, Madrid)

Adoration of the Shepherds

Oil on canvas, 315 x 174 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Adoration of the Shepherds and its companion-piece, the Adoration of the Kings were painted as altarpieces for the Convent of St Peter Martyr in Toledo. Maino comes close to what we now term 'superrealism' in some sections of the pictures. He achieved this effect by careful control of the texture, shape and volume of the objects together with a very cold but bright lighting, which reveals the influence of Caravaggio and the Italian Baroque.

The Adoration of the Shepherds is the work of a painter fully immersed in the art of Caravaggio. Maino appropriated not only Caravaggio's distinctive human types, seen especially in the angels and the shepherd in the right corner, but also his characteristic use of light and his love of intricate, studied compositions. Furthermore, Maino was able to fathom Caravaggio's dazzling surface effects and comprehend his profoundly human sense of religious feeling. In the most moving passage of the painting, St Joseph kneels beside the Christ Child and tenderly, almost reverently, kisses his wrist, subtly fusing feelings of paternal love and spiritual revelation. In this work, Maino reproduces the flamboyance of Caravaggio's early Roman style, exaggerating it by heightening the luster and brilliant colour of the exotic costumes, an effect that he possibly appropriated from the Dutch and Flemish "Caravaggisti", who were in Rome at the same time.

Some aspects of the compositions derive from El Greco, whose works were so numerous in Toledo.