This is one of the two very late large-scale treatments of the subject by Reni; the other was for the Certosa di S. Martino in Naples (and remains in situ).
This work is thought to date from about 1640 and was possibly commissioned by Prince Karl Eusebius of Lichtenstein (died 1684). Reni may have had some studio assistance in the execution of the painting.
The Gallery has three pictures of the Adoration of Shepherds, painted by Poussin, Rembrandt and Reni within a ten-year span at different locations. Poussin's daylight picture uses the little angels as part of the vertical structure of the composition.
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.
Rembrandt's humbler and smaller-scale picture uses night-time, to concentrate the picture around Christ.
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23 July 2011
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