The Adoration of the Shepherds

Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) Italian

Not on view

In comparison with a similar composition in the British Museum, London (inv. 1853,0108.3), this fairly detailed design shows the kneeling Virgin facing to the right rather than to the left, and the agitated poses of the shepherds now tamed into classical balance and restraint. The Metropolitan Museum sheet also offers evidence for a dating of the Adoration of the Shepherds drawings early rather than late in Parmigianino's Roman years, because the pose of the large standing nude man drawn in red chalk on the recto of a drawing in Cambridge (Harvard Art Museum inv. 1969.32) is echoed in the shepherd standing here on the left, and the general idea for the seated shepherds seen on the left in the recto of a sheet in a private collection (Popham no. 747), bearing a Parmese watermark, is also taken up here. The finished drawing by Parmigianino in Weimar (Popham no. 631) for Jacopo Caraglio's engraving of 1526 is horizontal rather than vertical in format. The Christ Child there is held up by an onlooker from a pillow-covered manger. In spite of such differences, the poses of a few figures around the Infant Christ resemble those in the Metropolitan Museum sheet. The Uffizi drawing of the Adoration of the Shepherds (Popham no. 72), also in a horizontal format and no longer showing the Virgin clearly bathing the Christ Child, seems to represent an intermediate stage of planning, when the composition went from the vertical format to the horizontal format of the Weimar drawing. The paper of the present sheet has darkened due to light exposure, thus diminishing the original airiness of its pen and ink with wash technique. A separate study for the figure of the shepherd seen carrying a lamb on the left is at Chatsworth, Devonshire collection (Popham no. 717). A drawing of good quality by a sixteenth-century copyist in the Fondazione Horne, Florence, closely imitates the Metropolitan Museum composition (Collobi Ragghianti 1972, pp. 44-9, fig. 14, incorrectly attributed to Pellegrino Tibaldi). The differences in detail in that sheet, however, suggest that the copyist probably worked from a lost variant of the Museum sheet.
(Carmen C. Bambach, in 'Correggio and Parmigianino: Master Draughtsmen of the Renaissance.' Exh. cat. New York and London 2000, p. 127, no. 81)

The Adoration of the Shepherds, Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, Parma 1503–1540 Casalmaggiore), Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, highlighted with white gouache over traces of black and a little red chalk (at upper left), on brownish paper

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.