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Image: Adoration of the Shepherds (1622), Gerard van Honthorst

About the image:

Anyone familiar with the work of Caravaggio immediately recognizes his influence on the work of Van Honthorst. The artist plays with light. Irrelevant parts of the canvas are left in the dark.

The child seems to be the source of the light. That is in accordance with John’s statement about Christ being “the true Light” (John 1:9) and Jesus’ claim “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 and John 9:5). The light shines on the faces of the other figures.

The three shepherds to the left are grouped in a nice triangle. Triangles are a well-known way to achieve coherence in a composition. The heads of Mary, Joseph and the ox form another triangle.

Van Honthorst made this canvas in 1622, two years after his return from Italy. (Source: Art and the Bible)