The shepherds come to adore the new-born Jesus in the stable. New Testament (Luke 2: 8-14). In the background the angel announces the birth of Christ to them.
Poussin uses a long-established motif, and places the Nativity in a stable built into the ruins of a classical building. This motif appears in the National Gallery's earliest Botticelli, 'Adoration of the Kings', and Poussin's contemporaries the Le Nain brothers used it in their 'Adoration of the Shepherds' of about 1640. The ruins represent the collapse of the Old Dispensation, the law of the Old Testament, superseded by the New Dispensation, the kingdom of Christ. The figure of the kneeling shepherd derives from that of one of the magi in 'The Adoration of the Magi' by the studio of Raphael (Rome, Vatican Loggie).
Each figure shows a different stage in the bending motion of the human body.
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The Adoration of the Shepherds
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