The Adoration of the Shepherds

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The Adoration of the Shepherds late 15th century
Mary and Joseph watch over the Christ Child lying in the manger, while shepherds look in through the stable openings. The character of the figures, the stable architecture and general setting, relate to a well-known composition of the Nativity by Rogier van der Weyden (now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). The prominent sheaf of grain may refer to Christ’s birth place, Bethlehem (meaning ‘House of Bread’), and also to bread’s symbolic role as the body of Christ in the Christian sacrament of the Mass. The panel was probably painted as an altarpiece in the late fifteenth century.

Glossary Open


An artwork behind a church altar featuring religious scenes or imagery which was usually the focus for the celebration of the Mass.


A representation of the birth of Jesus Christ.


An artwork consisting of three components. It may refer specifically to a work with wings that fold over the central image; this is a common form for altarpieces.

Altarpiece, Nativity, Triptych


  • Acc. No. NG 1541
  • Medium Oil on panel
  • Size 67.30 x 106.60 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1921