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Giorgione, the Adoration of the Shepherds

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we're here at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and we're standing in front of this painting by George Oni it depicts the adoration of the shepherds we see two Shepherds in the front kneeling with Joseph and Mary in front of the Christ child who lays on the ground when you think about a scene of the adoration of the shepherds when the Shepherd's followed a star and this is the moment where they first recognized Jesus is special he's defined that's the moment they're showing here but we're used to seeing it in a hierarchical symmetrical way Mary and Jesus get private place but here they're pushed toward the right and we've got the shepherds in the center here and a full half of the panel taken up by the landscape and I think what's interesting for this picture what sets the tone for its quietness of their amazement and their postures are so focused and so meditative it makes you think of the people in the Renaissance in Venice who would have looked at this painting and mimicked that posture so they're both guides and they're also imitating what's happening outside the picture I like that idea of limitation because we look at the shepherd with the ragged sleeve degree these are shepherds right there closer torn they were simple shoes but look at his hands and then look at the Virgin Mary's hands and you can see that he's actually imitating her the thumb cooked overs of the thumb and the fingers together so this idea of Venetians emulating in the shepherds in the same way the Shepherd's have emulated the Virgin Mary and I think this makes that really a nice sort of parallel and then we've got Joseph was a little bit off to the side and that's important because Joseph isn't Jesus's father that role goes to God it's almost like he also is trying to figure out the hand placement thumbs aren't quite together yet he too is participating but at a remove that's interesting it's like they're learning to worship this is that first moment when Jesus is divinity is recognized and they're starting to figure it out so why don't we talk about the background a bit yes gorgeous landscapes really precise the technical specimens we've got Laurel in the foreground and all sorts of other trees that are precisely rendered sort of the diffuse evening sunlight that seems to be increasingly low on the horizon striking the sides of those buildings more than it does the top to the tower under construction as there's this play between the preciseness of the details and the sense of atmosphere that softness leads to the serenity so that the setting is perfectly married to the subject of the shepherds this is where they work this landscape is their world you can really see how George is a master with oil paint ears especially in the middle ground especially right where the conduit splashes down and there's a little lick of white paint that comes up there I think when we talk about the advantages of oil pay one of them is color and it's just if we look at the central group and we just took a look at these color harmonies that green and they're kneeling Shepherd well look at how the Shepherd is in red and blue and white and then memory is in red and blue and white the other plays were seems our journey carefully balancing his picture and creating this union between the holy people and the worshippers I think the other place we can see it is that road that Joseph is when the spectacular Road that defies gravity it was like a nice curve yeah but it's just absolutely amazing color that orange it shines and it's actually a brand new pigment that was being developed and FC marketed by Venetian oil paint sellers when you think about an adoration of the shepherds as a pendant to a scene where you have vjr the three kings a type of painting that's full of rich jewels and rich fabrics and all sorts of luxury this is really something different and yet these people have nobility they have recognized something special here you