December 25, 2017
Eustache Le Sueur (1616-1655), Adoration of the Shepherds, mid 17th century, oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 53 1/4 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of Gloria Teichert with funds provided by Jack R. and Mary Lois Wheatley, 2004.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . .” (Isaiah 9:6)
In this painting by French artist Eustache Le Sueur, the shepherds’ worship of the newborn Christ is as theatrical and lively as it is symbolic and instructive. The devoted shepherds gaze at the rosy-cheeked infant, their postures conveying meek reticence and inquisitive awe. The Christ-Child lies on an altar-like manger, wrapped in a white cloth that references His future burial shroud. Stone pillars, dilapidated and broken, replace the traditional hay-lined stable—perhaps symbolizing the passing away of the Old Law and the establishment of Christ’s New Testament. The ox in the background—a theme first introduced in apocryphal scripture—and the beaming child-angels likewise participate in this joyous moment of worship.