Artwork of the Week: December 20, 2020
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 – 1669), The Adoration of the Shepherds with the Lamp (II/II), c. 1654, Etching, 4 3/16 x 5 1/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
This etching is one of the more charming representations of biblical subject matter treated by Rembrandt–the vibrant yet tender portrayal of the birth of the Christ Child. In a manner compatible with the biblical text, Rembrandt portrays the birth of the Savior as humble and ordinary; it appears to be a commonplace earthly event. Mary is not the elegantly dressed Madonna, nor is the manger placed in a setting of classical ruins seen in idealized Italian Renaissance paintings of the same subject. Only the reverential attitude of the shepherds and the light-formed halo indicate that something extraordinary is taking place. Concerning himself with the individual reactions of these simple peasants, Rembrandt’s compassionate feeling of the poor and the outcast is evident. His conception of biblical messages is always personal and never confined by tradition.