Adoration of The Shepherds – Meg Spierto

21 Apr




Artist: Guido Reni
Medium: Oil
Date: around 1640
Location: National Gallery, London
Dimensions: 16 by 9 feet

Guido Reni was a very famous artist of his time. The Adoration of the Shepherds is one of two of his largest paintings, being around 16 feet tall and 9 feet wide, almost consuming an entire wall of the National Gallery in London, England.

Reni was an Italian artist, born in Bologna, Italy. He was born November 4th 1575 and died at age 66 on August 18th, 1642. In his middle-adulthood, Reni moved to Rome for 9 years to study art. It was there that he was said to have had some quarrels with Caravaggio. After his 9 years in Rome, Reni moved back home to Bologna until his death. His painting career finished strongly in Bologna, although most of his most famous works were painted in Rome.

In Reni’s earlier years, he was commissioned by Pope Paul V and Scipione Cardinal Borghese for his impeccable artistry. At age 10, he began training with Denis Calvaert. Reni took a lot of his inspiration from the Frescoes of Raphael and ancient Greek sculptures.

Denis Calvaert, Reni’s mentor, was a famous Flemish painter. Calvaert was also an Italian painter who lived in Bologna for most of his life. A lot of his famous works reside in Bologna and St. Petersburg. While he was a student, he assisted in painting some frescoes in the Vatican. He was very well respected in his home town and by his colleagues, having many other young apprentices apart from Reni. His masterpiece is called “St. Michael” which sits in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Reni was famous for his Baroque style. He was said to have been a model for Baroque artists everywhere. His style particularly showed the complexity and the energy behind the Baroque. He liked to portray harmony which is seen in this painting, where all seems to be right with the world as Jesus lay peaceful in his bed and the angels and shepherds adore him. He also liked to gracefully pose his figures which he does a wonderful job of in this painting. Reni characterizes the Baroque period with this dynamic piece that is meant to bring out deep emotions. In some of his later paintings he began using lighter tones and softer colors. The Adoration of The Shepherds is a great example of his use of softer colors as we can feel the gentleness in the light surrounding baby Jesus and the angels. In this particular work, Reni “has taken a higher viewpoint, in which angels, similar to those in the Poussin, balance the composition. Ingeniously, they also reflect back the light coming from the newborn Christ” ( This is a great representation of the Baroque period because it was focused on aspects such as harmony and strong lighting.


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