The Adoration of the Shepherds, Matthias Stom (also called Stomer); oil on canvas, I don’t have size information; link is to zoomable image on Google Art Project, high-res downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Palazzo Madama, Turin.
Stom was a 17th century Dutch (or Flemish) painter known for his paintings done in Italy, where he became influenced by the work of Caravaggio and his followers.
He did at least three different versions of this scene. In all of them, the child is the source of light, throwing the other figures into high relief against the dark background with a dramatic chiaroscuro characteristic of Caravaggio.
I like this one in particular, with the interesting and strongly rendered faces of the shepherds, and the beautiful modeling of their hands.
2 Replies to “Adoration of the Shepherds, Matthias Stom”
What do you think is up with all the hands in this painting? Did Stom like to paint hands, was he showing his skill? Do the hands symbolize something? Did the shepherds all want to “get their hands on him?” Do they want to gather him up and take care of him, like one of their lambs ? Is it a case of shepherds acknowledging him as one of their own? Do the hands express something? Some emotion?
While there has often been a significance to the presentation of hands in religious painting, I think that was more prevalent in the Renaissance than in the Baroque era. In the 17th century, religious symbolism gave way to more commercial concerns, as the market for paintings broadened to the include the new wealthy merchant class. My best guess about this painting is that the hands are given prominence to both to add visual interest and, as you mentioned, to show off the painter’s skill to other potential patrons.
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