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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

Netherlandish, 1566 - 1638
The Annunciation to the Shepherds
Oil on canvas

66 ¼ x 53 ½ inches

Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston
Arts of Europe

Often relegated to the background of Nativity scenes, the story of the Annunciation to the Shepherds became the main subject of pictures beginning in the second half of the 16th century, as the representation of peasants gained in appeal.

According to the Bible passage Luke 2:8–14, an angel appeared to shepherds watching their flocks at night, and “the brightness of God shone round about them.” The angel told the frightened shepherds that a Savior, Christ, was born, and “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God.” The subject was one of Joachim Wtewael’s favorite themes, and the exaggerated poses, complex spatial configuration, and dramatic lighting effects in this densely packed composition are typical of the artist, who was a leading proponent of Mannerism in the Netherlands.