STROZZI, Bernardo
(b. 1581, Genova, d. 1644, Venezia)

Adoration of the Shepherds

c. 1615
Oil on canvas, 98 x 139 cm
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

The Evangelist Luke recorded that the birth of Christ was announced first to shepherds, who then went to Bethlehem to find the baby, but his Gospel does not state that they worshipped Jesus. This interpretation was introduced by St. Francis of Assisi, who stressed that the glad news was first revealed to the shepherds to signify the importance of the poor in God's plan; it remained important to the teachings of the Franciscan religious order, founded by St. Francis. Bernardo Strozzi, a member of a reform branch of the Franciscans, suggests these shepherds' poverty through their appearance and their humble gift. This combination of a naturalistic treatment of the subject with an artistic mixing of bright colours is characteristic of painting in Genoa at this time. The clarity of the composition is in keeping with the Church's Counter-Reformation demands that artists should be more concerned with conveying an effective message than displaying their own artistry.